SAN DIEGO — A retired San Diego police detective pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal conspiracy charge for helping a Mexican billionaire illegally funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Diego political campaigns.
Ernesto Encinas, the 57-year-old owner of a San Diego-based private security and consulting business, also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.
“He took responsibility for what he did,” said Jeremy Warren, Encinas’ attorney.
Encinas faces between five and ten years in prison when he is sentenced June 9 by U.S. District Judge Michael Anello.
Warren said he hoped to save his client from jail.
“I hope the work he did, the lives he saved as a law enforcement officer is taken into account,” said Warren.
Encinas is also facing half a million dollars in fines and will have to pay $69,000 in restitution, believed to be money owed to the government stemming from the false tax return he filed.
Encinas, Ravneet Singh, a self-styled campaign guru who owned a Washington, D.C.-based campaign services company, local lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes were charged in January, accused of trying to hide the source of the large donations to federal and local campaigns, including the 2012 mayoral campaigns of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Bob Filner.
Court papers indicated Encinas wanted the next mayor to fire the chief of police and replace him with a person of Encinas’ choosing in exchange for financial help supplied by Mexican millionaire Jose Azano Matsura, who faces a charge of campaign contributions by a foreign national.
“The message he was getting was that Chief Lansdowne was a good guy but was losing morale in the office, he (Encinas) wanted to increase diversity in the office, he thought the department was moving in the wrong direction,” said Warren.