Political fate and coincidence sometimes meet in mysterious ways, as witnessed in the uncanny timing of the July 24 death of George Mitrovich at 84, followed soon after by the troubles of Gina Champion-Cain.
Like Mitrovich a master of money, connections, and influential charity, Champion-Cain is now enmeshed in charges of massive investment fraud, as was Mitrovich and his patron J. David Dominelli back in the early 1980s.
"Since 2012, Defendant Gina Champion-Cain and Defendant ANI Development, the entity she controls, have raised over $300 million, including over $100 million in the past year, from approximately 50 investors nationwide," says a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission lodged in federal court August 28.
"When raising those investor funds, defendants claimed to be offering investors an opportunity to make short-term, high-interest loans to parties seeking to acquire California alcohol licenses. In truth, that investment opportunity was a sham."
"The lists of pre-selected liquor license applicants contained largely cancelled or expired liquor licenses, and many of the license applicants whom ANI Development told investors they were funding had never heard of ANI Development, much less taken a short-term loan from ANI Development. "
The government has yet to reveal investor names, though the complaint says of one of them "he has personally invested approximately $250 million in ANI Development's liquor license loan funding program, which includes rollovers of principal and interest due him from the alleged liquor license loans financed by his investment."
"Another several million dollars" was put into the scheme by "a group of at least ten investors affiliated with a second individual," the complaint adds.
To San Diego old-timers, the similarities between the alleged doings of Champion-Cain and Mitrovich, Dominelli, and his girlfriend, onetime Del Mar mayor Nancy Hoover, are striking.
"Hoover was tanned, fit, and hyper-ebullient," wrote Don Bauder in November 2009. "With the help of George Mitrovich, J. David money was spread around the community (such as to the symphony), as Dominelli and Hoover went on a spending spree with investor funds. 'The two of them were in la-la land,' says Gay Hugo-Martinez, who prosecuted Hoover."
With Mitrovich as J. David's community relations director, a big chunk of the tainted cash was secretly used to bankroll the 1982 mayoral bid of Roger Hedgecock, who was forced to resign as San Diego mayor in December 1985 after copping a plea to money laundering charges.
Mitrovich denied knowing anything about the $200 million Ponzi scheme that sent Dominelli and Hoover packing off to federal prison and was never charged in the case.
Mirroring Mitrovich and Hoover, the charismatic Champion-Cain, 57, is a master of political giving, contributing $50,030 to San Diego city campaigns since 2010, per numbers posted by the city clerk's office.
Champion-Cain's most sizable donation was $25,000 on December 6, 2017, to Friends of SDSU, a political committee backing the November 2018 ballot measure to turn the city-owned Qualcomm Stadium site over to San Diego State University.
In addition, her company American National Investments, also a defendant in the SEC case, came up with $2500 for the SDSU effort on August 7 of last year.
City politicos receiving Champion-Cain's support have included Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer ($3200); Carl DeMaio for Mayor 2012 ($1000); and the failed 2018 reelection bid of council Democrat Myrtle Cole ($1100).
In August 2013 she contributed $250 to an effort to recall scandal-enveloped Democratic mayor Bob Filner before he resigned.
On January 23 of this year, Champion-Cain gave Assembly Democrat Todd Gloria's 2020 mayoral bid $2100 and donated $200 for his cause on June 21. Council Democrat Chris Ward, running for state Assembly, got $1000 from Champion-Cain on June 20, records show.
City lobbying reports show that Champion-Cain's American National Investments retained the downtown influence peddling and law firm of Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley LLP to lobby for an unidentified development at First and Laurel Streets in 2016.
Champion-Cain's name showed up on the calendar of city council Democrat Ralph Inzunza for a March 3, 2003, 90-minute lunch at downtown's tony Dobson's restaurant near city hall. Inzunza's contacts with lobbyists from the Cheetahs strip club led to a federal conviction and a stretch in prison for him in 2013.