Mexican Citizen Guilty of Funding US Campaigns


     SAN DIEGO (CN) — Following a six-week trial and five days of deliberations, a federal jury on Friday found a Mexican millionaire guilty of illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars into the 2012 San Diego mayoral race.
     The race involved disgraced former mayor Bob Filner, who won the election, and the city’s current district attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
     Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, 51, along with his son Edward Susumo Azano Hester, 24, and campaign consultant Ravneet Singh, 44, were found guilty of illegally funneling more than $500,000 to Filner’s and Dumanis’ mayoral campaigns. Azano was found guilty on 36 counts including donation by a foreign national and multiple charges of falsifying records, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
     The wealthy businessman made his fortune in security and lived with his son and wife — both U.S. citizens — in a mansion on the notoriously expensive Coronado Island in San Diego. Despite living in the United States, Azano did not have a green card or immigration status that would allow him to legally support political campaigns here.
     Prosecutors showed email exchanges in court which proved Azano used straw-donor conduits to fund the 2012 mayoral campaigns for the Republican Dumanis and Filner, a Democrat. Azano also donated $30,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee through a straw donor, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
     Evidence presented at trial also showed Azano coordinated with Singh to pay for thousands of dollars of services from Singh’s campaign consulting company to benefit the campaigns, prosecutors said.
     Dumanis testified toward the end of the trial that she had vague memories of her “meet-and-greets” with Azano, and said she wasn’t aware Azano could not legally donate to her campaign. Neither she nor Filner were charged in the case.
     Also charged in the case was San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, 46, who was acquitted on several charges of falsifying campaign donation records.
     The jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on several charges against Azano and the others, including an illegal firearm charge against Azano and several charges against Hester and Cortes related to the falsification of campaign donation records. U.S. District Judge Michael Anello declared a mistrial on those counts and scheduled a hearing on the matter for November.
     Azano could face decades in prison if sentenced to the maximum penalty on all 36 charges, and potentially millions of dollars in fines.
     A sentencing hearing has been set for Dec. 5.

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