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Ex-Detective Linked To San Diego Campaign Finance Scandal Pleads Not Guilty

Retired San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas is the head of security for Mexican national Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.
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Retired San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas is the head of security for Mexican national Jose Susumo Azano Matsura.

A retired San Diego police detective who allegedly helped illegally funnel money to local campaigns pleaded not guilty Thursday, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

All of the background information on campaign contributions illegally funneled from a wealthy Mexican businessman to local candidates.

Ernesto Encinas is one of three men accused of helping a "foreign national," identified as Mexican businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, donate to San Diego politicians, according to a federal complaint unsealed in January.

Federal prosecutors say Encinas worked with Ravneet Singh, a Washington-based campaign services CEO, and Marco Polo Cortes, a San Diego lobbyist, to move at least $500,000 of Azano's billions to San Diego mayoral and congressional races in 2012 and 2013.

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The federal complaint says the men targeted four candidates, though it did not name the politicians. However, KPBS has identified them as District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and ex-Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher.

An inewsource review of public documents shows the campaigns of Dumanis, Vargas and Filner received donations from at least one of the three men involved.

Singh and Cortes are scheduled to be arraigned separately on Tuesday, a representative from the attorney's office said.

Encinas, Singh and Cortes face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Corrected: July 21, 2024 at 6:36 PM PDT
KPBS investigative reporter Amita Sharma contributed to this story.