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Feds say money from Mexican businessman reached San Diego politicians

Two people have been indicted with conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States after federal authorities say they helped funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to San Diego politicians.

Ravneet Singh, 41, and his Washington-based campaign services firm ElectionMall Inc., and Ernesto Encinas, 57, a retired San Diego police detective, are accused of distributing donations from a Mexican businessman to support San Diego mayoral candidates and a candidate for federal office in 2012 and 2013.

According to the indictment, the businessman has homes in California but is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident, making it illegal for him to donate to campaigns. He has not been charged.

The San Diego Union-Tribune identified the businessman as Jose Susumo Azano Matsura. The paper also reported that former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was among those whose campaign received money. Filner resigned the mayoralty this past August in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal. 

There is no suggestion that any elected official or candidate knew the contributions were illegal and none is named in the complaint. A "representative" of one mayoral campaign eventually became a confidential informant after being granted immunity from prosecution.

The Mexican businessman donated $100,000 to a political action committee for a mayoral candidate in 2012 after deciding the previous year that he wanted to influence San Diego electoral politics, according to the complaint.

Encinas, who served as the businessman's security detail, allegedly arranged for an unnamed "straw donor" to write a $30,000 check to a committee that supported a candidate for federal office in 2012, the complaint says. The straw donor also allegedly wrote a $120,000 check in October 2012 to a committee supporting another mayoral candidate.

The complaint says the retired detective met with the informant last year after Bob Filner's resignation as mayor amid widespread allegations of sexual harassment. The retired detective allegedly offered to funnel campaign contributions from the Mexican businessman to a candidate seeking to replace Filner in a special election but insisted that Police Chief William Lansdowne be fired and replaced with his own choice, according to the complaint.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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