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Men Accused Of Funneling Foreign Funds To San Diego Campaigns Plead Not Guilty

Two men accused of funneling more than $500,000 in foreign money into San Diego political campaigns pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy charge contained in a federal indictment.

Marco Polo Cortes, a local lobbyist, and Ravneet Singh, the owner of the Washington, D.C.-based campaign services company, ElectionMall, denied the charges in separate hearings at the federal courthouse.

A federal grand jury returned the indictment against Cortes, Singh, ElectionMall and former San Diego Police Department Detective Ernesto Encinas after the three were arrested and charged in a complaint last month.

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

Last week, Encinas waived his right requiring prosecutors to present their case to the grand jury.

Cortes, Singh and Encinas are accused of trying to hide the source of large donations to local campaigns, including the 2012 mayoral campaigns of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner.

The source of the foreign money has not been made public in court documents, but it is believed to be Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, a Mexican businessman with a home in Coronado. It is illegal for non-citizens to contribute to U.S. election campaigns.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said the donor wanted to turn San Diego's bayfront into a West Coast version of Miami.

A motions hearing is scheduled March 24 before U.S. District Judge Michael Anello.