Ravneet Singh Allegedly Facilitated Nearly $300,000 in Illegal Foreign Contributions to Campaigns in San Diego, including D.A. Bonnie Dumanis, ex-Mayor Bob Filner and a federal candidate
As part of conspiracy, Former SDPD Detective Ernesto Encinas Allegedly Sought to Fire Sam Diego’s Chief of Police and Pick His Replacement
January 23, 2014 (San Diego)--Ravneet Singh, proprietor of Washington, D.C.-based ElectionMall, Inc., was arraigned January 21 on charges that he conspired to finance political campaigns using money from an illegal foreign source. Singh was arrested by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents on Friday, January 17, pursuant to an arrest warrant.
According to the complaint, filed by an FBI Special Agent and unsealed by U.S. Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo, Singh conspired with former San Diego Police detective Ernesto Encinas and others to funnel more than $500,000 of illegal foreign money into San Diego municipal and federal campaigns, primarily in 2012 and 2013. Singh’s company, ElectionMall, Inc., was also charged as a defendant.
The complaint indicates that Singh, who styled himself the "campaign guru," was the President, Chief Executive Officer and founder of ElectionMall, Inc., a company that provided social media services and other campaign and election products to political candidates throughout the world. Encinas was the owner of a private security and consulting business in San Diego who oversaw the protection detail of a person identified in the complaint only as "the Foreign National."
Between approximately 2011 and 2013, Singh and Encinas helped the Foreign National donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to a series of candidates for elective office. UT San Diego reports these included District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and former Mayor Bob Filner during the 2012 San Diego mayoral election, and an unnamed 2012 Congressional candidate that the UT speculates was likely Juan Vargas. Azano also tried to helkp Nathan Fletcher, mayoral candidate in the special election, though there is no evidence that Fletcher knew about the effort. No politicians have been implicated in wrongdoing at this time.
Despite the foreign national’s willingness to contribute funds, he could not legally donate to any of these campaigns. 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. Knowing this, Singh and Encinas allegedly used a series of increasingly complex techniques to hide the fact that the Foreign National was the true source of these illicit campaign funds. According to the complaint, Encinas—among other devices—helped mask the Foreign National’s contributions through the use of shell companies.
Similarly, according to the FBI, Singh used his expertise to facilitate the donation of social media services to political candidates that the Foreign National favored. The complaint alleges that these contributions—sometimes classified as "in-kind contributions"—were not reported in any campaign filings and totaled nearly $300,000. According to the complaint, the Foreign National’s illegal contributions included:
• A $100,000 contribution to a SuperPAC
• $100,000 in unreported compensation for campaign services
• A $30,000 contribution to a political party committee
• Another $190,000 in unreported compensation for campaign services
• A $150,000 contribution to another SuperPAC
• A $30,000 contribution to another political party committee
• The promise of a "mill" in additional contributions
According to the complaint, Encinas wanted the next mayor to fire the Chief of Police and replace him with a person of Encinas’s choosing in exchange for the Foreign National’s financial help.
Singh could face up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States. The FBI, SDPD, and the Internal Revenue Service all investigated this case.