Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live


4 Donors Fined $35K For Violating San Diego Campaign Finance Laws

Ernesto Encinas, pictured, is a former San Diego police detective.
Ernesto Encinas, pictured, is a former San Diego police detective.

The San Diego Ethics Commission has issued $35,000 in fines to four donors to District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' failed 2012 mayoral run for violating city campaign finance laws.

The cases involved people who made $500 donations to Dumanis' campaign and had the expense reimbursed. The commission said it's illegal to make a political donation on someone else's behalf.

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

Stacey Fulhorst, the director of the ethics commission, said she hopes the fines serve as a deterrent.


“With contribution limits, the way people get around them is to move their money through a series of employees," she said. "Most people would think twice about participating in that kind of scheme if they knew they would be facing stiff penalties from the ethics commission.”

The largest fine was $20,000 against Amir Iravani, the owner of NK Towing and Roadside Services Inc., who asked four employees in early 2012 to make the donations and paid them back.

The other three cases were tied to a former San Diego police detective caught up in a broader federal investigation over alleged illegal foreign campaign donations by a Mexican businessman.

According to the Ethics Commission, three people associated with the ex- detective, Ernesto Encinas, were fined $5,000 each.

Fulhorst said it’s premature to say whether Encinas will be fined too.


“That case is not finished," she said. "In general, the standard in the industry is to levy the penalty against the person who orchestrated the money laundering.”

Documents provided by the commission said Milan Bakic, Ryan Zilius and Cheryl Nichols made $500 donations to the Dumanis campaign in December 2011 and were reimbursed by Encinas.

The former detective, who pleaded guilty in federal court in March to conspiracy and filing a false tax return, wanted the winner of the 2012 mayoral election to fire then-San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne and replace him with a chief of Encinas' choosing, according to court papers.

The Ethics Commission's documents said Bakic and Zilius were employed by Coastline Protection and Investigations, a security firm owned by Encinas — and Nichols was an independent accountant.

The businessman, Jose Azano Matsura, is accused in a federal indictment of illegally funneling money into various 2012 election campaigns, including those of Dumanis and eventual mayoral election winner Bob Filner.

The commission said Iravani, Bakic, Zilius and Nichols all cooperated with the commission and agreed to pay the fines. The Ethics Commission has not taken action against Encinas.

The 2024 primary election is March 5. Find in-depth reporting on each race to help you understand what's on your ballot.