La Jolla car dealer admits funneling illegal donations to candidates

SAN DIEGO -- The co-owner of a luxury car dealership in La Jolla has been fined $80,000 for funneling illegal contributions to the 2012 campaigns of San Diego County Dist. Atty. Bonnie Dumanis and ex-Mayor Bob Filner, the city’s Ethics Commission announced.

In an agreement with the commission, Marc Chase, 52, co-owner of Symbolic Motor Car Co., admitted that he laundered money from Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura into the mayoral campaigns of Dumanis and Filner.

Azano was a major customer of Chase’s company. Chase served as a “straw” donor to hide Azano’s name.

Dumanis was defeated in the primary. Filner was elected mayor in the November runoff.

Chase laundered about $165,000 into the campaigns, as well as to the county Democratic party, according to the commission. Election law forbids contributions from foreign nationals.


Filner resigned in August amid allegations that he sexually harassed women. Dumanis is currently seeking her fourth term as district attorney.

In a separate part of the same case, Chase pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to eight misdemeanor counts of campaign funding violations. He could face eight years in prison when sentenced Nov. 13.

Nothing in the criminal case or the Ethics Commission finding suggests that Filner or Dumanis knew of the illegal contributions.

Azano, who lives in Coronado, was eager to influence city officials who could help him build hotels along the San Diego waterfront, according to prosecutors.

In the federal case, Azano, the owner of a campaign strategy business and a local political consultant have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial. A retired police officer has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

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