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We’re still learning the details of an elaborate scheme to funnel illegal foreign money into local elections. But already some eyebrow-raising factoids have emerged.
And just like that, San Diego is in the midst of yet another political scandal. It’s shaping up to be a weird one.
Ravneet “Ravi” Singh, the owner of ElectionMall Inc., and retired San Diego Police Department detective Ernesto Encinas are accused of conspiring to pour $500,000 in illegal foreign money into several local political campaigns.
See the federal complaint here.
The foreign national is reportedly Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who owns a home in Coronado. A straw donor, who acted as a middle man to donate $150,000 to various candidates, is thought to be Marc Chase, co-owner of Symbolic Motor Car Company in La Jolla.
Four politicians have been implicated in the case, referred to only as Candidates 1-4. A confidential source close to the investigation told U-T San Diego that Candidate 1 is District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Candidate 3 is former Mayor Bob Filner and Candidate 4 is former mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher. Rep. Juan Vargas has not ruled out that he is Candidate 2.
We’re still trying to figure out key details in the case. But already some eyebrow-raising factoids have emerged. We had to share.
According to a 1999 Forbes profile, Chase (who opened the dealership with brother Bernie) managed to elevate his business to become “the largest dealer of collectible and performance cars in the world.”
You don’t have to be a gearhead to lust after some of the cars that have parked in Cherry’s showroom: Elvis Presley’s BMW 507, Sophia Loren’s Rolls-Royce, Steve McQueen’s Ferrari, to name a few.
A little over a week before the first installment of the special mayoral election last November, police arrived at Symbolic Motor Car Company’s showroom on La Jolla Boulevard to find the front window shattered.
The cars were all still there, though. Instead, the U-T reported, a locked glass case was tipped over and smashed. The case held four Breitling for Bentley watches, all stolen. At the time, Chase said their worth totaled $100,000. SDPD agreed the burglars were looking for the watches. There’s no evidence to the contrary.
But at the very least, that means this is another bizarre element in a bizarre story: One week before the election he’s thought to have conspired to influence, Chase’s renowned luxury showroom was broken into by two at-large burglars whose only interest there was … four watches.
Starting with the last presidential election, the California Elections Code calls for “the candidate in each congressional district who received the largest number of votes in the primary election among the candidates who disclosed a preference for the Democratic Party shall designate one presidential elector” to join the electoral college.
Vargas, then running for the House, picked Encinas.
The reason, according to CalPolitiCal: “As a retiree, (Encinas) was a witness in an underage alcohol sale violation case, in which he instructed the ‘decoy’ in the sting operation.”
It probably didn’t hurt that Encinas had also contributed to Vargas’ re-election campaign, $3,500 in total.
Azano’s Las Vegas revelry was captured by TMZ in May 2012. Azano, pictured on TMZ with his son, “Su Su,” and rapper Jermaine Dupri, made a splash at Tryst nightclub. For starters, TMZ reported, Su Su paid $90,000 for a bottle of champagne, adding $40,000 for other libations.
The club urged Dupri, who was deejaying that night, to give Su Su a shoutout. Dupri complied and, apparently going above and beyond Vegas decorum, let Azano’s son request a song.
“Su Su” was so thankful Dupri actually played his tune — Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” — he stuffed an additional $3,800 cash in his pocket as a tip!
Su Su has also gallivanted with rappers 50 Cent, Lil Wayne and Soulja Boy, professional boxer Floyd Mayweather and rap mogul Diddy.
And in December, Su Su made an appearance on a slightly lower-profile media channel: Chase’s Instagram feed.
Unlike his possible co-conspirators, Chase leans more toward baseball legends than rap heavy-hitters. CityBeat’s John Lamb tipped off his followers to this nugget:
From the 2006 Sports Collector Daily story:
“I was nervous at first and then a little surprised when I won,” Chase recalled. “The other guy I was bidding against went past me and I then came back and placed a bid at $225,000. He came up to about $220,000 and then he stopped so I won it at just over that. When the auction ended I was totally happy. I didn’t think I would get it this cheap. The other historic home run balls have sold for much more.” …
Chase counts several pro athletes as friends, having sold Ferrari, Mazzeratti, Rolls Royce, Lamborghini and other expensive cars to some of them. “I’ve got tons of signed jerseys, balls and helmets I’ve bought for a few thousand dollars over the years but this was kind of a spur of the moment thing and by far the most I’ve ever spent for anything like this.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post said Rep. Juan Vargas was running for re-election to Congress in the fall of 2012. Then a state senator, Vargas was running for the House for the first time.