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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, August 31, 2017

Former Campaign Guru Ravneet Singh Sentenced for his Role in Laundering $600,000 in Foreign Money into 2012 San Diego Mayoral Election

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Phillip L.B. Halpern (619) 546-6964, Mark W. Pletcher (619) 546-9714, Helen Hong (619) 546-6990, Billy Joe McLain (619) 546-6762

 

NEWS RELEASE SUMMARY August 31, 2017

 

SAN DIEGO – Political consultant Ravneet Singh, former CEO of ElectionMall Technologies, was sentenced today to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for his role in funneling more than $600,000 in illegal foreign campaign contributions from Mexican citizen Jose Susumo Azano Matsura to candidates in the 2012 San Diego mayoral election.

 

U.S. District Court Judge Michael M. Anello ordered the defendant to report to prison on October 12, 2017, to begin serving his sentence.

 

In September 2016, after six weeks of trial and five days of deliberations, a federal jury in San Diego returned guilty verdicts against Singh, Azano and Azano’s son, Edward Susumo, who were convicted of felony counts associated with a series of illegal campaign contributions by Azano to the campaigns of Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner.

 

“American elections are not for sale,” said Executive U.S. Attorney Blair Perez. “We will not allow our sacred electoral process to be compromised. This prison sentence underscores an important message: Anyone who tries to manipulate the American electorate will pay a high price.”

 

“Public corruption undermines the strength and confidence in our system of government which is why these cases are a top criminal priority for the FBI,” said Special Agent in Charge Eric S. Birnbaum. “Today’s sentence stands as a stark condemnation of Azano’s and Singh’s willful efforts to undermine the fundamental principles of our representative democracy. The American people can count on the FBI to continue to bring these complex, sensitive, and important cases to justice.”

 

“Using a series of complex financial transactions, Mr. Singh conspired to funnel illegal money to influence the outcome of San Diego political races,” stated Special Agent in Charge R. Damon Rowe of IRS Criminal Investigation. “IRS Criminal Investigation remains committed to the fight against campaign finance crimes. This case exemplifies the strong impact we are making in this arena working in cooperation with our law enforcement partners.”

 

According to evidence presented at trial, Azano, Singh, and others conspired to inject hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and in-kind consulting services to the Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner campaigns, despite the fact that Azano’s foreign national status made such contributions illegal. To conceal his connection to these contributions, Azano arranged with his son Edward Hester and others to funnel this illegal foreign money through corporate and third person “straw donor” contributions. The conspirators, moreover, arranged for at least $267,000 worth of Singh’s in-kind consulting services to be secretly funneled to the campaigns.

 

In return for his political contributions, Azano sought to buy political influence. For example, he wanted support for his vision of Miami West – a San Diego waterfront development project with a yacht marina, a branded five-star hotel, and luxury bayside condominiums that promised Azano millions in profit. In other instances, Azano wanted access, like the ability to call on influential political figures or obtain letters of reference to secure his son’s admission to the University of San Diego.

 

Ultimately, with Azano’s help, Filner won the election, though he was forced to resign shortly thereafter.

 

For his part, Singh used his specialized skills and knowledge to facilitate the crimes. Evidence at trial demonstrated that Singh used code names for the Dumanis and Filner work that Azano paid for but never for any other domestic candidate for office; harshly reprimanded employees for using those code names in emails; and on one particularly candid occasion, referenced the “legal ramifications” of discussing these topics. Singh further concealed the payments from Azano by structuring the wires from a Mexican company, Broadlink, controlled by Azano, which had nothing to do with electoral politics, to company Singh controlled, not Election Mall, but eSolutions, which primarily developed software from India.

 

In addition to the jury’s guilty verdicts against Azano, Singh, and Hester, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on several charges brought against San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, and acquitted Cortes on several charges of falsifying campaign donation records. The jury also acquitted Hester on several charges related to the falsification of campaign donation records, and could not reach a verdict on several other charges. Finally, the jury could not reach a verdict on a firearm charge against Azano.

 

Retrial on a firearm charge against Azano is set to begin September 5, 2017. Azano is, thereafter, scheduled to be sentenced on October 23, 2017, followed by Edward Hester on November 6, 2017. The retrial of Marco Polo Cortes is scheduled for December 5, 2017.

 

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Phillip L.B. Halpern, Mark W. Pletcher, Helen Hong, and Billy Joe McLain of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California are prosecuting the case.

 

DEFENDANTS                             Case Number: 14cr0388-MMA

 

Ravneet Singh                                Age: 45                   Naperville, IL

Jose Susumo Azano Matsura         Age: 52                   Guadalajara, Mexico

Edward Susumo Azano Hester      Age: 25                   San Diego, CA

 

SUMMARY OF CONVICTIONS

 

Count 1: Conspiracy to Commit Offenses Against the United States – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 371.

Maximum Penalties: Up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine

Defendants Azano, Singh and Hester

 

Count 3: Donation and Contribution by a Foreign National Aggregating $25,000 or more – Title 2, U.S.C., Secs. 437g (d) (1) (A) (i) and 441e (A) (1).

Maximum Penalties: Up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine

Defendants Azano, Singh and Hester

 

Count 4: Contribution in the Name of Another Aggregating $25,000 or more – Title 2, U.S.C., Secs. 437g(d) (1) (A) (i) and 441f.

Maximum Penalties: Up to five years in prison and $250,000 fine

Defendant Azano

 

Counts 5-37: Falsification of Records – Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 1519.

Maximum Penalties: Up to 20 years in prison per count and $250,000 fine per count.

Defendant Azano on all counts; Singh guilty on counts 32 and 37

 

AGENCIES

 

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation

San Diego Police Department

*The charges and allegations contained in an indictment or complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Press Release Number: 
CAS17-0831-Singh
Updated August 31, 2017