Back in October 2012 we first reported here on a conspicuously large contribution made to "San Diegans in Support of Bob Filner for Mayor - 2012," an independent expenditure committee formed to support the Democratic ex-congressman's bid to run the city.
The second biggest donor was an entity identified by the disclosure as South Beach Acquisitions of La Jolla, with $120,000 on September 27. State records show that South Beach Acquisitions, Inc. is a California corporation with an address of 7440 La Jolla Boulevard. Other entities at the same address include the La Jolla Children’s Foundation, a small non-profit corporation headed by Marc and Ruth Chase, according to its 2011 annual filing with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The main tenant at the location is Symbolic Motor Car Company, a high-end car dealership featuring Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, Porsche, and Rolls Royce.
Nobody was returning calls then about why the mysteriously named company, à la Miami Vice, was backing the San Diego Democrat, though there was a distinct whiff of wheels and deals.
Forbes magazine had written about Symbolic and its racy owners more than a decade earlier, in March 1999.
Symbolic Motor Car was launched 14 years ago by Bernie and Marc Chase, a pair of high-strung brothers from Los Angeles afflicted with Southland car culture to the point of neurosis. One by one they bought and sold increasingly more exotic cars — Symbolic owns all of its stock and does not sell on consignment — until eventually their remarkable savvy made them the largest dealer of collectible and performance cars in the world.Steve McQueen’s Ferrari 275, Elvis Presley’s BMW 507, Sophia Loren’s Rolls-Royce: Sooner or later the most exotic cars have ended up with the Chase brothers.
Today, according to a report in U-T San Diego, Symbolic's Marc Chase has been linked to a federal probe of big-time political money laundering.
Ernesto Encinas, an ex–San Diego cop, and Ravneet Singh, identified as a political consultant from Washington, D.C. have been charged in the case, but few other details have emerged.
Before Chase, there was Texas savings and loan swindler Don Dixon, who ran Vernon Savings and took a Lone Star–size liking to San Diego and the swinging lifestyle of its super rich, as related by Stephen Pizzo, Mary Fricker and Paul Muolo in their 1989 book Inside Job, the Looting of America's Savings and Loans.
Don had loved cars since he was a kid, and in May of 1985 he had Vernon [Savings] buy Symbolic Motors, a Rolls-Royce and Ferrari dealership in affluent La Jolla, just south of Del Mar. Rare and expensive autos stood reflected in the polished tile floors, each car exhibited like a rare gem in its own section of the display room. Dixon justified the purchase of the dealership by saying that it would offer Vernon an opportunity to "break into the consumer lending market."
Dixon deployed even more cash from Vernon to finance a Del Mar mansion where all manner of decadence occurred, as recounted in March 1991 by the New York Times after Dixon had been convicted and locked up in federal prison.
Karen Wilkening of San Diego, known as the "Rolodex Madam," testified that some of her high-priced call girls worked several Vernon parties. Their fee was $400 per woman, and they were said to have been paid more than $15,000 all together. At one party, said the Rolodex Madam, $500 was tacked on the bill because one prostitute spent the entire evening with a customer. A Vernon employee fingered Mr. Dixon as the person.
In June 1990, U-T San Diego, then known as the San Diego Union-Tribune and owned by Helen Copley, ran a story linking high-flying real estate magnate, now U-T owner Doug Manchester, to Dixon and his hijinks.
Dixon's local acquaintances included Rancho Santa Fe resident Lawrence Taggart, a one-time Great American Bank executive and former state savings and loan commissioner, and local developer Douglas Manchester. The indictment alleged Dixon also billed Vernon $10,500 for prostitutes for himself and others at a 1985 Vernon board of directors' party at the Solana Beach house and on a yacht cruise in San Diego harbor. Dixon also allegedly used Vernon's money for hunting trips with thrift officials to Kansas and San Diego.
Based on accounts of the current federal investigation into money-laundering downtown, La Jolla's latest encounter with political infamy is just beginning.