NBC7 Investigates has confirmed that a former fundraiser for both ex-San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis is the second of two confidential informants who cooperated with federal investigators in a criminal probe into illegal foreign campaign contributions.
Kelli Medina Maruccia, who runs the Democratic fund-raising firm of KM Strategies, is described in a federal complaint filed last month as “Confidential Informant #2,” according to two law enforcement sources and two other people with direct knowledge of the case. The sources, who had direct, specific knowledge of Maruccia’s role in the investigation, could not be identified because of the confidential nature of the ongoing campaign corruption scandal.
According to her profile on Linked In, Maruccia, graduated University of California Los Angeles in 2001 with a political science degree. She has also served a finance assistant to Tim Johnson, a Democratic U.S. senator from South Dakota. Her KM Strategies firm performed fund-raising for Filner during the General of his 2012 mayoral bid. Maruccia was the fundraiser for Dumanis’ original 2002 race for District Attorney and her 2012 mayoral bid during the primary, records show.
Maruccia has not responded to multiple requests for comment made over a period of several weeks to her cell phone and those left on the voice-mail of her KM Strategies firm.
A federal complaint against four defendants revolves around an issue with $500,000 in contributions from Mexican millionaire businessman Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, which federal prosecutors allege was funneled into San Diego campaigns in 2012 and 2013. It is illegal for a foreign national without U.S. citizenship to contribute to political campaigns.
Prosecutors have charged national political consultant Raveneet Singh, former San Diego Police Department vice detective Ernesto Encinas, lobbyist Marco Polo Cortes, and Mexican millionaire Jose Susumo Azano Matsura with conspiracy to hide the source of the money, calling it one of the biggest campaign finance schemes in the city’s history.
Subsequent news reports have confirmed the identity of three candidates who received the foreign campaign money as: San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis; U.S. Congressman Juan Vargas (D-51); and former Mayor Bob Filner. Those politicians said they returned the tainted funds, in the days and weeks after the criminal complaint was filed.
The complaint filed Jan. 21 outlines Maruccia’s role in the investigation. The complaint states that on Sept. 18, 2013, Maruccia met with a former San Diego Police Department detective, Ernesto Encinas, who asked to meet her in a coffee shop. During the meeting, which was video and audio recorded by the FBI, Maruccia informed Encinas that the foreign national, Azano, could no longer contribute to Dumanis’ campaign because he did not have a green card, according to the complaint and several news reports.
Upon direction of a special agent with the FBI, Maruccia asked if Encinas could think of another way that Azano could contribute to Dumanis’ campaign in a way that was “not sort of traceable,” according to the complaint. Encinas then verified that Azano could funnel money through a straw donor, the complaint states.
No campaign funds from Azano or the straw donor were received by any campaign committees related to Dumanis after that meeting, local campaign finance forms show. However, the complaint states that Encinas and Azano created an independent expenditure committee prior to the meeting in May 2012. That IE spent approximately $114,000 in support of Dumanis during her 2012 campaign for mayor.
Dumanis has stressed that the nature of independent expenditure committees is that they are not allowed to coordinate or speak with the candidate’s campaigns.
“There are two kinds of committees. There is one that you do for your campaign and then there is one that is totally independent and, in fact, the law requires you to stay independent,” Dumanis said in a recent appearance on NBC7’s “Politically Speaking.” “It is allegations about the people who did something in the ‘Independent,’ which I couldn't control, nor should I control, by law.”
She added: “I am shocked and outraged that these people would do this, especially because I am the DA; and they should be held accountable, if what they did is true.”
In response to this development on the identity of the confidential informant, Dumanis said: “If true, that’s exactly what we would expect a member of our team to do – work with law enforcement to catch the bad guys.”
The UT Watchdog reported earlier this month that another confidential informant in the criminal probe was Filner’s former campaign manager Ed Clancy.
A spokesman for the FBI released the following statement in response to a request for comment on this story: “In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, the FBI does not disclose the identity of a witness to the media.”
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office said her office also had “no comment.”