Co-owner of Calif. luxury dealership pleads guilty in campaign finance case

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The co-owner of a La Jolla, Calif., luxury-car dealership pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to making illegal political campaign donations in the name of a foreign national, according to court documents.

Marc Alan Chase, 52, pleaded guilty Thursday in San Diego to eight counts of campaign finance crime, including conspiracy, aiding and abetting contributions by a foreign national and making a “straw” contribution to a federal political campaign. He faces up to eight years in prison and $800,000 in fines.

It is illegal for non-U.S. citizens to contribute to political campaigns.

“We would just like to emphasize that the charges [Chase] pleaded guilty to are all misdemeanors,” said Chase’s attorney, Guadalupe Valencia. “He hopes that this doesn’t overshadow the good he has done in the past -- he has raised money in the San Diego area in the past and is known for his charity.”

In his plea agreement, Chase admitted working with Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, a Mexican national who has been indicted on similar charges, to make multiple campaign contributions to candidates for Congress and candidates for San Diego mayor. According to the charges, the donations began no later than December 2011.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper, Azano’s funds allegedly supported the 2012 mayoral campaigns of Bob Filner and Bonnie Dumanis and the congressional campaign of Rep. Juan Vargas.

Two of the corporations Chase used to make donations also were listed on the charges of conspiracy, and both have entered into deferred prosecution agreements with the federal government.

In a filing by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Chase admitted making three large donations totaling $180,000 in September and October 2012. Chase stated that Azano told him to make the contributions and promised to repay him. Azano later wrote Chase a check for $380,000, which he deposited into one of his corporation’s bank accounts. It was agreed that $180,000 of this money was to cover the donations.

Chase is the co-owner of Symbolic Motor Car Co. The dealership’s Web site indicates it sells the Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce brands.

A sentencing hearing has been set for Nov. 13 in federal court in San Diego.

You can reach Sean Gagnier at sgagnier@crain.com.


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