On August 31, 2017, it was announced that a political consultant had been sentenced to 15 months in prison for his involvement in a scheme to funnel more than $600,000 in illegal foreign campaign contributions during the 2012 San Diego mayoral election. Former CEO of ElectionMall Technologies, Ravneet Singh, was sentenced to 15 months and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, for helping funnel money from Mexican citizen Jose Susumo Azano Matsura for the 2012 San Diego election.
In September of 2016, a federal jury in San Diego handed down guilty verdicts against Singh, Jose Azano, and Azano’s son, Edward Susumo Azano Hester. The trial lasted six weeks and deliberations carried on for five days. Ultimately, the jury concluded that the defendants had indeed illegally funneled campaign contributions from Azano to the campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner.
Evidence presented during the trial showed that the defendants injected hundreds of thousands of dollars and provided consulting services to the campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner. They did so with Azano’s money. Due to Azano’s foreign national status, those contributions were illegal. Azano worked with his son and others to funnel the money through corporate and third person straw donor contributions.
Additionally, the conspirators arranged for $267,000 worth of Singh’s consulting services to be covertly provided to the campaigns. Azano was interested in gaining political influence for his contributions. He wanted a candidate that would support his vision of Miami West, which was a San Diego waterfront development project.
Azano wanted influence over the political figures and wished to obtain reference letters to ensure his son would be admitted to the University of San Diego. Filner ultimately won the election with Azano’s help. Filner was forced to resign a short time later. Evidence concluded that 45-year-old Ravneet Singh of Naperville, Illinois used his skills and knowledge to help facilitate the crime.
Singh used code names for the campaign work and reprimanded employees for using those code names in emails. Singh also attempted to conceal the payments by wiring the money from a Mexican company, Broadlink, which was controlled by Azano, to Singh’s other company, eSolutions. Since neither companies were involved in politics, Singh believed the transfers would remain hidden.
The jury returned guilty verdicts against Singh, Azano and Hester. However, they were unable to reach a verdict on several charges against San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes. Cortes was also acquitted on several charges of falsifying campaign donation records. Hester was acquitted on similar charges and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on other charges against Hester. Finally, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a firearm related charge against Azano.
Azano will be retried for the firearm charge with the trial scheduled to begin on September 5, 2017. After that, he is scheduled to be sentenced on October 23, 2017. Edward Hester will be sentenced on November 6, 2017, while Marco Polo will be retried on December 5, 2017.