Former SDPD detective Ernesto Encinas is one of the key players in the campaign finance scandal rocking San Diego politics. Encinas made his initial court appearance on Jan. 23, 2014, where he was asked by a judge to surrender some personal items. NBC 7's Artie Ojeda reports.
A former San Diego police detective accused of conspiring to finance local political campaigns using money from an illegal foreign source was ordered to surrender his passport and firearms in federal court Thursday as part of some ground rules for his release.
According to a complaint filed by the FBI and unsealed by a U.S. magistrate judge Tuesday, former police detective Ernesto Encinas – along with San Diego lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes and Ravneet Singh, CEO of electionmall.com – allegedly conspired to funnel more than $500,000 in foreign funds into San Diego political races, mostly in 2012 and 2013.
The complaint states the men got the cash from a Mexican citizen referred to as “The Foreign National.”
As it stands, it’s illegal for foreign nationals to make contributions to political campaigns. Cortes, Singh and Encinas were all recently arrested for their alleged involvement in the scandal.
As far as Encinas is concerned, prosecutors allege the former SDPD detective wanted the next mayor of San Diego to fire San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne.
At Encinas’ first appearance in federal court Thursday, a judge laid out the charges against the former police detective and Encinas formally acknowledged those charges.
However, Encinas did not enter a plea and was released on his own recognizance, under certain terms. This included surrendering his firearms and passport, as a judge ordered him to remain in the continental United States.
Standing alongside his attorney, Jeremy Warren, Encinas was quiet in court, only speaking a few times to say, “Yes, Your Honor,” to the federal judge.
Warren said his client would not be making comments to the media regarding the allegations against him in the campaign finance scandal.
When asked about why Encinas allegedly wanted Chief Lansdowne fired, Warren had this to say about his client: “I can’t comment on particulars right now. You all understand, someone charged with a crime, it’s an allegation. They’re presumed innocent under the law. Nothing has been proven as of yet.”
“I think you guys, everyone, will come to the conclusion at the end of the day that Mr. Encinas is a good man who should be judged on the entirety of his career and the benefit of the public,” Warren added, referring to his client’s 31 years of service on the police force.
A preliminary hearing for Encinas has been set for Feb. 4.
The investigation into the alleged scandal is ongoing.