DA Dumanis testifies about meetings with Mexican billionaire

SAN DIEGO — A Mexican businessman accused of secretly funneling $600,000 through straw donors and independent committees to the 2012 San Diego mayoral campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner said he was interested in buying the San Diego Chargers, Dumanis testified Wednesday.

Bonnie Dumanis

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis

The San Diego County district attorney took the witness stand in the federal trial of Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, who is charged with conspiracy, campaign finance violations, falsification of records, bribery and weapons violations.

Dumanis said Azano Matsura also talked about cars and travel during a “meet and greet” session in December 2011.

A campaign staffer told Dumanis that Ernie Encinas — a retired San Diego police detective who ran a security business — helped introduce Azano and that the businessman — known as “Mr. A” — was “very wealthy,” Dumanis testified.

Dumanis also testified that it would have been her practice to thank Azano for helping raise money for the campaign. Her testimony lasted about two hours.

Dumanis has said in the past that though she met with Azano, she was not aware that the contributions to her campaign and an independent political action committee came from him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Schopler told jurors in his opening statement that Azano got his son and others to recruit straw donors to contribute to the Dumanis campaign, then Azano reimbursed the donors.

A political consultant testified earlier in the trial that he felt pressured by some in the Dumanis mayoral campaign to find a way to put $100,000 of “fishy” campaign funds to work for Dumanis and her run for mayor.

The consultant, John Wainio, said he rejected an offer to deposit the money from Azano into a political action committee.

As a foreign national, Azano is barred from financial participation in U.S. elections.

Prosecutors said Azano was trying to buy influence in his vision to build a “Miami West” development on the waterfront in San Diego.

Political consultant Ravneet Singh, lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes and Azano’s son, Edward, are also charged in the case. Encinas pleaded guilty before trial.