Tow-truck driver salutes a passerby
The owner of a towing company seems to be hampering a City of San Diego Ethics Commission investigation into an alleged campaign-fund-laundering scheme.
The alleged improprieties occurred during 2012's mayoral election. During that time, according to an ethics commission complaint, Aymen Arakat, through his company Advantage Towing, directed employees to contribute the maximum donation allowed ($500) to the mayoral campaigns of district attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Carl DeMaio, and Nathan Fletcher. Arakat subsequently cut checks to those employees, reimbursing them for the donations. There were 15 alleged violations.
The mayoral election in 2012 had more than one alleged campaign-fund laundering scheme involving San Diego's district attorney and other candidates: in November 2014, Ernesto Encinas, a former San Diego police detective, was accused and later pleaded guilty to funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars for Mexican businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura to political candidates’ campaign accounts.
Dumanis’s mayoral campaign was tied to another campaign violation: a second tow company, Escondido’s NK Towing and Roadside Services, and it's owner Amir Iravani, was also fined for reimbursing employees for their maximum contributions to her campaign.
In regards to Advantage Towing, the ethics commission served Arakat's attorney with a subpoena requesting copies of checks that showed the owner reimbursed employees for contributions to Dumanis’s, DeMaio’s, and Fletcher's campaigns.
In January of this year, numerous checks were turned over, but the majority were not related to the campaign loans.
"The e-mail [from Advantage Towing's attorney] contained an attachment of documents purporting to be loans to employees," reads testimony from Gary Winuk, special counsel for the ethics commission. "The documents were simply photocopies of checks, however, some of which contained notations listing other purposes for the checks other than loans and only five of approximately ninety checks containing a notation for a loan. No signed certification of records was provided and no other records responsive to any of the other items requested in the subpoena were provided."
Advantage Towing's attorney assured the ethics commission that additional documents were on the way. But nothing came. On April 9, 2015, the five-member commission voted to serve Arakat and company with another subpoena. Arakat and his attorneys again failed to release the documents.
On June 4, the commission filed a petition to have a judge force them to turn over the requested documents.
Steve Lopez, attorney for Aymen Arakat, did not respond to a request for comment. Stacey Fulhorst, executive director of the ethics commission, could not comment on the investigation.