SAN DIEGO, California – Self-christened campaign guru Ravneet (“Ravi”) Singh was re-sentenced in federal court on Monday to one year in prison for conspiring with Mexican billionaire Susumo Azano to make almost $600,000 in illegal political contributions to candidates Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner in the 2012 San Diego mayoral campaign in an effort to buy “a friend in the Mayor’s office,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of California.
U.S. District Judge Michael M. Anello also ordered Singh to pay a $10,000 fine. Singh’s re-sentencing brings to a successful end this long-running investigation into corruption in local San Diego politics.
“Today’s sentence once again stands testament to the resolve of the FBI, the IRS [Internal Revenue Service], and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to safeguard San Diego politics against those who attempt to illegally undermine the fundamental principles of American democracy,” said Executive U.S. Attorney Linda Frakes on Monday. “Today, more than ever, the integrity of our election system matters and attempts to illegally manipulate it will be punished.”
“Public corruption and campaign finance fraud undermines the strength and confidence in our system of government which is why these cases have always been a top criminal priority for the FBI,” said Special Agent in Charge Suzanne Turner. “The American people can count on the FBI to continue to expose those, like Azano and Singh, who attempt to illegally influence American political processes and bring them to justice.”
In September 2016, after six weeks of trial and five days of deliberations, a federal jury in San Diego returned guilty verdicts against Azano and Singh as well as Azano’s son, Edward Susumo Azano Hester.
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 Dumanis and 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 Singh, his son Edward Hester, and others to funnel this illegal foreign money through corporate and third person “straw donor” contributions.
In return for his money, Azano sought to buy political influence and support for his vision: “Miami West” – a San Diego waterfront development project with a yacht marina, a branded five-star hotel and luxury bayside condominiums, a development project that promised Azano hundreds of millions in profit. Azano also demanded access, like the ability to summon influential political figures to his home on a moment’s notice or to obtain letters of reference to secure his son’s admission to the University of San Diego.
According to testimony at trial, Azano’s illegal money harnessed by Singh in an effective Internet fusillade made the difference in electing Bob Filner as Mayor. Within weeks after the election, with the Mayor squarely in his pocket, Azano met in London with renowned, Middle East-based master developers to refine his plans for “Miami West.” A month after the election, Azano invited the developers to fly halfway around the globe to meet with him and Mayor Filner about the Miami West project, and just four days after Filner’s inauguration, that meeting occurred, catered by Nobu, at Azano’s Coronado Cays mansion.
Filner resigned six months later amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Azano and Singh were initially sentenced in 2017 to incarceration periods of 36 months and 15 months, respectively. After multiple lengthy appeals to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a petition for review at the Supreme Court, which invalidated their convictions on one of the 36 counts charged in the indictment, Judge Anello re-sentenced Azano in 2019 to the same sentence of 36 months in prison. On Monday, Judge Anello sentenced Singh to a 12-month sentence. Singh was ordered to report to prison on January 11, 2021.
In addition to Azano, Singh, and Hester, local car dealer Marc Chase, his company South Beach Acquisitions, consultant Marco Polo Cortes, and former police detective Ernesto Encinas were also convicted of various campaign fraud-related offenses as part of this long-running investigation.