San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis met with Jose Susumo Azano Matsura during the same time prosecutors allege Azano was illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Dumanis’ failed 2012 mayoral campaign.

The meeting took place in Gore’s office on March 2, 2012, according to Gore’s calendar. Azano wanted to introduce himself to Gore, a Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman said.

Azano, a Mexican national, was charged in February for allegedly illegally contributing more than half a million dollars to various San Diego political campaigns starting in late 2011. He’s pleaded not guilty.

This is the first time the sheriff has been linked in any way to Azano. Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Melissa Aquino said Gore, Dumanis, Azano and former San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas attended the March 2012 meeting. Encinas is a confidante of both Dumanis and Azano and has pleaded guilty to facilitating Azano’s campaign donations.


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Gore’s calendar indicates that Kelli Maruccia, the campaign fundraiser for both Dumanis and Gore, helped set up the meeting. The calendar blocks off 90 minutes for the meeting, but Aquino believed the discussion lasted no longer than 40 minutes.

“The sheriff does not recall many specifics, but does remember that Mr. Azano discussed his affection for golf, his residence in Coronado and that he mentioned at length all the government officials he knew in Mexico,” Aquino said.

Aquino said Gore has never received any campaign donations from Azano. But Dumanis was a major beneficiary of Azano’s money. Dumanis hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the campaign finance case and has denied any knowledge of what Azano was doing or what he wanted from San Diego politicians.

Dumanis, who recently won re-election as district attorney, declined to be interviewed.

“I understand nothing of substance was discussed,” Dumanis spokesman Steve Walker said.

Dumanis has said that she couldn’t remember how many times she had met with Azano. She’s been circumspect about her dealings with Azano even as details of deeper ties between the two have emerged, including a college recommendation letter she wrote for Azano’s son, a gift basket Azano sent Dumanis and a prosecution her office handled in which Azano’s son was the victim.

The only encounter with Azano Dumanis has recalled publicly was a luncheon at his Coronado estate in early 2012. She’s never mentioned the Gore meeting.

The meeting with Gore could shed light on Azano’s motivations for involving himself in San Diego politics.

Prosecutors have said Azano wanted to develop the city’s bayfront property into “Miami West.” But Azano’s business interests focus on law enforcement and surveillance equipment. Aquino said Gore regularly participates in “meet and greets” with members of the community. He has not met with Azano since, she said. Gore is unaware of Azano’s companies doing any business with the Sheriff’s Department or the county, Aquino said.

“The sheriff would not want the Sheriff’s Department to enter into a contract with someone who is under local or federal indictment,” Aquino said.

In late 2011, Azano allegedly began funneling money to Dumanis’ mayoral campaign through straw donors arranged by Encinas, a Dumanis friend who also provided Azano’s private security.

At least 10 people attended the early 2012 meeting at Azano’s house, Dumanis said. She recalled few details about the gathering other than that Azano talked about software he developed in Mexico and that she noticed his fleet of fancy cars in the driveway. She said he didn’t ask for anything from her.

In February 2012, Azano began investing heavily in Dumanis’ mayoral campaign, prosecutors say. Azano paid a Washington D.C.-based campaign consultant $100,000 in off-the-books contributions for Dumanis’ social media efforts, according to a court filing.

Dumanis’ meeting with Gore and Azano occurred a month after he began spending a lot of money on her behalf.

By May, Dumanis was floundering in fourth place in mayoral polls. But Azano started a political action committee to promote her mayoral bid, and contributed another $100,000 on mailers and other advertisements. At the same time, Dumanis ads began appearing on the Mexican side of the San Ysidro border crossing.

After Dumanis’ loss, prosecutors say Azano gave hundreds of thousands in illegal donations to Juan Vargas and Bob Filner’s successful bids for Congress and San Diego mayor, respectively. Neither Vargas nor Filner has been charged in the case.

    This article relates to: Bonnie Dumanis, Campaign Finance Scandal, News, Share

    Written by Liam Dillon

    Liam Dillon is senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He leads VOSD’s investigations and writes about how regular people interact with local government. What should he write about next? Please contact him directly at liam.dillon@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5663.

    22 comments
    Michael Aguirre
    Michael Aguirre subscriber

    This is very fine reporting. In law the issues raised about Dumanis are known as "red flags."  For me they started when Dumanis showed up at City Hall with a plan to divert misdemeanor prosecutions from the City Attorney to herself, They continued when she killed the search warrant arising out of the conflict of interest case involving the Sunroad principals; her failure to prosecute the case after she orchestrated the fallacious disqualification of the City Attorney raised my concerns further. Then after she won before the Supreme Court the right to prosecute the pension fraud case against Ron Saathoff she dropped it when she was preparing to run for Mayor. (the city had to pick up his legal fees because of it) And now the revelations about her meeting with someone who could not legally vote in the Mayor's race or contribute to a Mayoral candidate, while he poured thousands of illegal dollars into her campaign.  Thankfully these storm warnings are starting to draw attention.  The problem is so much damage has been inflicted on the quality of law enforcement by Ms. Dumanis it will take many years to restore our community.     

    Citizen San Diego
    Citizen San Diego subscriber

    Many people believe Bill Gore 's repeated endorsements of Dumanis is the reason she won.  Remember the article "Why I trust Bonnie Dumanis", that was written after the Azano connection was revealed?  At the time, he wrote that he knew she was lying about her "one time meeting with Azano".   Why he vouched for her, knowing what he knew about her is unfathomable.



    Erik Bruvold
    Erik Bruvold subscribermember

    IMHO,  THIS is what Voice is all about.  Proud today to support the organization.  Keep at it Liam.

    dave stutz
    dave stutz subscribermember

    Remember Azano became wealty in Mexico and learned how "mordida" brings power. Note that an ex cop set Dumanis up with the money cow in Jan 2012. The money begins to flow to her in February and she takes Azano to Gore in March. The Mafia learned 60 years ago wrap up the cops and the politicians will follow.!!. That must have been some meeting.  An ex cop, the 2 top law enforcement officials for the county and the crook. Doesn't get any better than that. 

    Thomas DeSoto
    Thomas DeSoto subscriber

    San Diego is extremely fortunate to still have a few "independent investigative journalist and reporters" like Liam Dillion whose brave uncanny ability to delve deep into the dark underworld of "The Blue Code of Silence" and especially the San Diego's Police departments "The Club" poses an incredible risk to his own News Organization "Voice of San Diego," his family, his associates, his staff, and to himself and his own career, so that his community of San Diego may stay informed of the dangers that lurk hidden deep within our society today. In a town where the wealthy Republican Union Tribune has unlimited resources and Bandwidth to control the ideology of millions, yet continuously turns a blind eye on many of the social issues of our times, because of special interest and a unwavering desire to hold fast to the Republican GOP hard line of half truths and twisted hyperbole. Thanks to independent writers like Liam Dillion whose conscience, integrity and great passion to seek out the real truth against the strong tide of political propaganda, the facts of this important story are finally surfacing to the top, for all to see. In a world where whistle blowers and those who stand up for the truth must now face an army of political oppression, immense amounts of personal humiliation and character assassination, waves of unsavory computer trolls financially motivated to use clever words of persuasion in order to discredit noble journalistic inspirations of intelligence and healthy inquiry, you Mr Dillion do your community a great service that we can never be fully appreciate or repaid back in our collective lifetimes. In a life of living dangerously, amidst a vortex of conspiracy and false illusions, filled with artificial salesmen and racist divide, your words are a refreshing reminder of what it is to be a true American Patriot. Your noteworthy articles carry with them a strong sense of truth and justice, shining a bright light of hope and inspiration, an uncompromising suspicion of the true reality that we must all face head on if we are to ever initiate and bring about real change within our society. I thank you for standing tall, your bravery and authentic magnanimity is truly contagious to us all,... Sincerely Thomas DeSoto, a huge fan, and proud citizen of San Diego North County. 

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Dear Bill Gore,

    I think it's time for you to "retire".

    Signed,

    Bill Lansdowne

    dave stutz
    dave stutz subscribermember

    What is beautiful to watch is Dumanis  flipping off the UT every time they ask about this case and they can't do anything because they endorsed her. Now the Sheriff can  do the same and they have to shut up. Great... our two top law enforcement officials in the county are involved in a growing corruption case and the paper is powerless. Remember the ex cop was present at and arranged all these meetings and HE is feeding the FBI with information. 

    Linda Tegarden
    Linda Tegarden subscriber

    Now this is a sexy story...keep digging, Mr. Dillon.  This is the kind of information that could develop into a prize-winning narrative!  Might be better than SEDC/CCDC or the criminals in the South Bay schools. Just one question...since I readily believe all the people named in your story are fully capable of any and all of these nefarious activities--what is in it for Azano? I could understand it if Azano wanted cover to run drugs through here or some other thing that would give him a great return on his monetary investment.  They needed his money for their campaigns--what was he getting for it?  BTW, do you feel a little nervous bearding local legal  royalty  in their dens and throwing in some Mexican criminals to boot?  Who will protect you?

    Tyred
    Tyred subscriber

    .....and some here kept giving me grief about how I portrayed Bonnie as the crook that she is.  I can hardly wait 'til the dam breaks.  Of course, Azano has probably been on the FBI watch list for at least a decade, and Gore used to work there, so........maybe he knew.


    Hopefully everything comes out and we have 2 political powerhouses indicted while in office.

    Marty Martins
    Marty Martins subscriber

    @Tyred  And on a DEA watch list.  He definitely has ties to/with the Mexican cartels.

    Marty Martins
    Marty Martins subscriber

    How deep does the corruption go? What was she doing?  Introducing her Mexican millionaire to Gore in case he, too, wanted to get on the illegal money train?  Dumanis and Gore are joined at the hip.  It's well known she gave "Ruby Ridge" Gore a job at the DA's Office until it was safe for Kolender to bring him over to the sheriff's office.


    And is it any wonder Dumanis refuses to be interviewed?   Just like she won't release the copy of the letter she wrote for the Mexican moneyman's son -- the same guy she claims she barely knew, the same guy who just happened to dump $200,000 into her mayoral campaign.  No, in my opinion, Dumanis refuses to be interviewed because she knows if she slips and tells a lie that doesn't match up with all her earlier lies that whole corrupt house of card will fall down.

    Bill Bradshaw
    Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

    It’s comforting to know the DA and Sheriff work so smoothly together.  If Gore’s staffer says the meeting lasted no more than 40 minutes of a scheduled 90, that must be true, so it’s impressive to realize how quickly major officials can reach agreement........on how much money each needs for reelection.

    And of course, all big deals involve golf, right?  Plus, it’s totally reassuring to learn that our sheriff doesn’t want to enter into contracts with people under indictment.  Duh.


    Surprise!  Our perennial poster boy for clean deportment in office, the “honorable” Juan Vargas, is also named as receiving mucho dinero, as is our dear, departed, recently unmourned mayor.  This guy Azano really cuts a wide swath among local politicians.  He must be a very persuasive guy.  And, he’s non-partisan!  He’ll give money to anyone who can help him, regardless or race, sexual preference, creed, or political beliefs.  A real winner!  

    Great story. 

    Erik Hanson
    Erik Hanson subscriber

    If the Sherriff has enough time to block off 40 minute meeting with a stranger so that person can discuss golf with him, then perhaps we should consider making the job part-time, with a substantial salary cut.

    Kristen Aliotti
    Kristen Aliotti subscriber

    Your article says "half a million" but your emailed "Special Report" alert says "half a billion." 


    "....contributing more than half a billion dollars to various San Diego political campaigns starting in late 2011."