Ex-San Diego police detective Ernesto Encinas changes plea in campaign contributions scandal

SAN DIEGO - A retired San Diego police detective pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal conspiracy charge for helping a Mexican millionaire illegally funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars into San Diego political campaigns.

Ernesto Encinas, the 58-year-old owner of a San Diego-based private security and consulting business, also pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.

He faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced June 9 by U.S. District Judge Michael Anello. Last month, Encinas pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Defense attorney Jeremy Warren said he hoped to save his client from jail.

"He took responsibility for what he did," Warren said outside court after the hearing.

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.

It is against federal law for a foreign national to donate to campaigns.

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 Susumo Azano, who faces a charge of campaign contributions by a foreign national.

Encinas provided security for Mexican millionaire Jose Susumo Azano, 10News reported.

Investigators say Encinas hoped the money would help elect a new mayor, who would then fire now-former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne. Lansdowne resigned late last month.

Encinas had worked security for strip clubs and club profits were hurt by police surveillance.

Azano and the two others charged have pleaded not guilty.

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