FBI: Illegal funds funneled to local candidates in San Diego - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

FBI: Illegal funds funneled to local candidates in San Diego

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SAN DIEGO (CNS/CBS 8) - A social media campaign business, accused of conspiring with a former San Diego police detective and others to funnel more than $500,000 of illegal foreign money into San Diego municipal and federal campaigns, primarily in 2012 and last year, was arraigned in federal court Tuesday.

Ravneet Singh, 41, the proprietor of Washington, D.C.-based ElectionMall Inc., was taken into custody Friday by FBI agents serving an arrest warrant.

ElectionMall Inc. is also charged as a defendant in the case.

"For criminal cases there's nothing more important to us than public corruption investigations," said FBI Special Agent Darrell Foxworth.

Court records show Singh considered himself a "campaign guru," and was the president, CEO and founder of ElectionMall, a company that provided social media services and other campaign and election products to political candidates throughout the world.

Former San Diego Police Department Detective Ernesto Encinas, the owner of a San Diego-based private security and consulting business, oversaw the protection detail of a person identified in the complaint only as "the Foreign National."

Between 2011 and 2013, Singh and Encinas allegedly helped the foreign national illegally donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to a series of candidates for elected office, including during the 2012 San Diego mayoral election, a 2012 congressional campaign and the 2013 San Diego special mayoral election -- up to December 2013.

The FBI did not name who the candidates were in the allegations.

Under federal law, foreign nationals are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures in connection with any American electoral campaign, whether at the federal, state or local level.

Singh and Encinas are accused of knowingly using a series of increasingly complex techniques to hide the fact that the unnamed foreign national was the true source of illicit campaign funds.

The complaint alleges Encinas, 57, helped mask the foreign national's contributions through the use of shell companies, among other devices.

Similarly, Singh allegedly used his expertise to facilitate the donation of social media services to political candidates that the foreign national favored.

The complaint alleges that those contributions -- sometimes classified as "in-kind contributions" -- were not reported in any campaign filings and totaled nearly $300,000.

"These are complex and methodical investigations," said Foxworth.

Court papers allege Encinas wanted the next mayor to fire San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne and replace him with a person of Encinas' choosing in exchange for the foreign national's financial help.

The FBI would not comment who the candidates were or if they had knowledge about the illegal contributions and scheme.

The complaint says the confidential informants have immunity in the case.

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