Feds: “Money Man” Wanted to Make SD Bayfront into “Miami West”

Prosecutors claim Jose Susumo Azano sought help from pols in his quest to build up San Diego's bayfront

A Mexican businessman accused of using political operatives to illegally donate at least $500,000 to San Diego political campaigns wanted to transform San Diego into “Miami West”, a federal prosecutor revealed on Friday.

Jose Susumo Azano, who owns a surveillance software company in Mexico and maintains a villa in Coronado, hoped that local politicians, including former Mayor Bob Filner, would help him in his quest to build up the San Diego bayfront, at the foot of Broadway.

“He wanted to develop there, and he sought political clout,” through illegal campaign donations, mostly to independent campaign committees for those candidates, the prosecutor said.

Those revelations were made during a detention hearing for a San Diego political consultant, Marco Polo Cortes, also charged in this case.

Read the full transcript of Cortes' Jan. 24 detention hearing here

This new information is significant, because until now the U.S. Attorney’s office has not discussed Susumo Azano’s alleged motive for channeling at least $500,000 to support candidates identified as Filner, District Attorney and former mayoral candidate Bonnie Dumanis, two-time mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher and Congressman Juan Vargas.

According to the prosecutor, Filner, identified in court papers as “Candidate 3”, told the Mexican businessman that he didn’t have jurisdiction over the bayfront, but he would try to delay development of the Navy Broadway Complex so the businessman could take over the lease on that property.

Earlier this week, FBI agents served search warrants on Coronado properties associated with Susumo Azano.

At the Friday morning court hearing, the prosecutor said the alleged conspirators “attacked the electoral process… the most important thing in our democracy.”

The Mexican businessman has not been charged with any crime, but three men who allegedly helped him are accused of felony Conspiracy to Commit Offenses Against the United States.

Those defendants are retired San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas, Washington, D.C.-based campaign services executive Ravneet Singh, and local government lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes.

Read: Key Players in Campaign Finance Scandal

Cortes was arrested Tuesday and is being held without bail because he allegedly refused to open his door when FBI agents served him with an arrest warrant.

The prosecutor said the agents had to call in a SWAT Team to make Cortes comply with the court-ordered warrant.

But at today’s hearing, the prosecutor said he has since learned that Cortes was on the phone with his lawyer when he refused to answer the door.

For that reason, the prosecutor said he no longer opposes Cortes’s request to be freed on bond pending trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William Gallo said he will consider the terms of that bond at another hearing, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

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