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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 27, 2017

Mexican Businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura Sentenced for Trying to Buy Himself a Mayor

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher (619) 546-9714, Phillip L.B. Halpern (619) 546-6964, Helen Hong (619) 546-6990, Billy Joe McLain (619) 546-6762

 

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY October 27, 2017

 

SAN DIEGO – Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura was sentenced in federal court today to three years in prison for making almost $600,000 in illegal political contributions to candidates Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner in the 2012 San Diego mayoral campaign in an effort to buy influence. U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello also ordered Azano to pay a $560,955 fine.

 

In September 2016, after six weeks of trial and five days of deliberations, a federal jury in San Diego returned guilty verdicts against Azano, political consultant Ravneet Singh and Azano’s son, Edward Susumo Azano Hester. Each was convicted of felony counts associated with the illegal campaign contributions.

 

According to evidence presented at trial, Azano, Singh and others conspired to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind consulting services to the Dumanis and Filner campaigns, despite the fact that Azano’s foreign national status made such contributions illegal. To conceal his connection to these contributions, Azano arranged with his son Edward Hester and others to funnel this illegal foreign money through third person and corporate “straw donor” contributions.

 

“Today’s sentence serves as stark condemnation of Azano’s willful efforts to undermine the fundamental principles of American democracy,” said Executive U.S. Attorney Blair C. Perez. “The judge sent a message today: The integrity of our election system matters, and attempts to illegally manipulate it will be punished.”

 

FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum stated, “Jose Susumo Azano Matsura attempted to manipulate our electoral system and undercut our representative democracy. Our democracy is contingent upon a righteous electoral process and this case is evidence of the FBI’s steadfast commitment to upholding the strength and confidence in our system of government for the citizens of San Diego.”

 

“Motivated by greed and ego, Azano laundered nearly $600,000 in illegal foreign national campaign contributions into the 2012 election for San Diego’s mayor,” stated IRS Criminal Investigation’s Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe. “Fair and legal elections are a fundamental institution of America. IRS Criminal Investigation is proud to assist our law enforcement partners in lifting the veil of secrecy and leveling the playing field for all candidates.”

 

Azano was convicted of all 36 campaign finance fraud-related counts he faced; he was also convicted in a subsequent trial of illegally possessing a semi-automatic 9 mm Sig Sauer handgun with a laser scope. Judge Anello ordered that Azano be immediately taken into custody.

 

According to the government’s sentencing memo, Azano was the unquestioned leader of the scheme who choreographed every move and used coercion to force business associates - who depended on him financially - to make campaign contributions to Azano’s favored candidates. Azano then reimbursed the straw donors, thus obscuring the nature and source of the political contributions

 

In return for his money, Azano sought to buy political influence and support for his vision: “Miami West” – a San Diego waterfront development project with a yacht marina, a branded five-star hotel and luxury bayside condominiums, a development project that promised Azano hundreds of millions in profit. Azano also demanded access, like the ability to summon influential political figures to his home on a moment’s notice or to obtain letters of reference to secure his son’s admission to the University of San Diego.

 

According to testimony at trial, Azano’s illegal money made the difference in electing Bob Filner as mayor. Within weeks after the election, with the mayor squarely in his pocket, Azano met in London with renowned, Middle East-based master developers to refine his plans for “Miami West.” A month after the election, Azano invited the developers to fly halfway around the globe to meet with him and Mayor Filner about the Miami West project, and just four days after Filner’s inauguration, that meeting occurred, catered by Nobu, at Azano’s Coronado Cays mansion.  

 

Filner resigned six months later amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

 

Also convicted in the same trial were political consultant Ravneet Singh, and Azano’s son, Edward Hester based on their conduct associated with the illegal campaign contributions. Singh was sentenced to 15 months in prison. Hester was sentenced to a 12-month term of probation. 

 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark W. Pletcher, Phillip L.B. Halpern, Helen Hong and Billy Joe McLain of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California prosecuted the case. 

                       

DEFENDANT                                   Case Number: 14cr0388-MMA 

 

Jose Susumo Azano Matsura              Age: 52           Guadalajara, Mexico

 

SUMMARY OF CONVICTIONS

 

Count 1: Conspiracy to Commit Offenses Against the United States – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371.

Maximum Penalties: Up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine

 

Count 3: Donation and Contribution by a Foreign National Aggregating $25,000 or more – Title 2, U.S.C., Secs. 437g (d) (1) (A) (i) and 441e (A) (1).

Maximum Penalties: Up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine

 

Count 4: Contribution in the Name of Another Aggregating $25,000 or more – Title 2, U.S.C., Secs. 437g(d) (1) (A) (i) and 441f.

Maximum Penalties: Up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine

 

Counts 5-37: Falsification of Records – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1519.

Maximum Penalties: Up to 20 years in prison per count and $250,000 fine per count.

 

AGENCIES

 

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation

San Diego Police Department

 

 

Press Release Number: 
CAS17-1027-Azano
Updated October 27, 2017