Friday, January 24, 2014

Ravneet Singh Allegedly Facilitated Nearly $300,000 in Illegal Foreign Contributions to Campaigns in San Diego

Campaign Services Professional Arraigned for Role in Campaign Finance Crimes
Ravneet Singh Allegedly Facilitated Nearly $300,000 in Illegal Foreign Contributions to Campaigns in San Diego; as part of conspiracy, Former SDPD Detective Ernesto Encinas Allegedly Sought to Fire the SD Chief of Police and Pick His Replacement
U.S. Attorney’s Office
January 21, 2014

Southern District of California (619) 557-5610

SAN DIEGO, CA—Ravneet Singh, the proprietor of Washington, D.C.-based ElectionMall Inc., was arraigned today on charges that he conspired to finance political campaigns using money from an illegal foreign source. Singh was arrested by FBI agents on Friday, January 17, 2014, pursuant to an arrest warrant.

According to the complaint, filed by an FBI special agent, unsealed by U.S. Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo, Singh conspired with former San Diego Police detective Ernesto Encinas and others to funnel more than $500,000 of illegal foreign money into San Diego municipal and federal campaigns, primarily in 2012 and 2013. Singh’s company, ElectionMall Inc., was also charged as a defendant.

According to the complaint, Singh, who styled himself the "campaign guru," was the president, chief executive officer and founder of ElectionMall Inc., a company that provided social media services and other campaign and election products to political candidates throughout the world. Encinas was the owner of a private security and consulting business in San Diego who oversaw the protection detail of a person identified in the complaint only as "the Foreign National." Between approximately 2011 and 2013, Singh and Encinas helped the Foreign National donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to a series of candidates for elective office—including during the 2012 San Diego mayoral election, a 2012 Congressional campaign, and the 2013 San Diego special mayoral election (up to, but not after, December 2013).

Despite the Foreign National’s willingness to contribute funds, he could not legally donate to any of these campaigns. Under federal law, "foreign nationals" are prohibited from making any contributions or expenditures in connection with any American electoral campaign—whether at the federal, state, or local level. Knowing this, Singh and Encinas allegedly used a series of increasingly complex techniques to hide the fact that the Foreign National was the true source of these illicit campaign funds. According to the complaint, Encinas—among other devices—helped mask the Foreign National’s contributions through the use of shell companies.

Similarly, Singh used his expertise to facilitate the donation of social media services to political candidates that the Foreign National favored. The complaint alleges that these contributions—sometimes classified as "in-kind contributions"—were not reported in any campaign filings and totaled nearly $300,000. According to the complaint, the Foreign National’s illegal contributions included:

a $100,000 contribution to a SuperPAC
$100,000 in unreported compensation for campaign services
a $30,000 contribution to a political party committee
another $190,000 in unreported compensation for campaign services
a $150,000 contribution to another SuperPAC
a $30,000 contribution to another political party committee
the promise of a "mill" in additional contributions

According to the complaint, Encinas wanted the next mayor to fire the chief of police and replace him with a person of Encinas’ choosing in exchange for the Foreign National’s financial help.

Complaints are not evidence that the defendant committed the crime charged. All defendants are presumed innocent until the United States meets its burden in court of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant in Case Number 14MJ0201

Ravneet Singh
Age: 41
Washington, D.C.

ElectionMall, Inc.

Ernesto Encinasv Age: 57
San Diego, Californiav
Summary of Charges and Maximum Penalties

Count one: conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States-18 U.S.C. § 371
Maximum penalties: five years in prison, three years of supervised release, $250,000 fine, and a $100 special assessment
v INVESTIGATING AGENCIES

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation
San Diego Police Department

Monday, December 16, 2013

After 30 Years In Prison, Judge Releases Inmate Whose Testimony Was Beaten Out Of Him

After 30 Years In Prison, Judge Releases Inmate Whose Testimony Was Beaten Out Of Him
By Nicole Flatow
ThinkProgress
December 13, 2013

More than a decade ago, a special prosecutor undertook an investigation that revealed a longtime Chicago Police Department detective and commander had routinely tortured black men to coerce them into confessions or false testimony. Some of the convictions were reversed. A few others were pardoned by then-Governor Ryan. And Jon Graham Burge was convicted on related perjury charges and sent to jail.

But Burge’s misconduct is still taking its toll on many of the 148 people who claimed abuse. Just this week, a man who spent more than 30 years in jail was released after Judge Richard Walsh found that officers had lied about beating Stanley Wrice with a flashlight and a 20-inch piece of rubber, and about imposing similar treatment on a witness in Wrice’s case to elicit false testimony against him.

Wrice was sentenced to 100 years for a sexual assault he says he falsely confessed to after police beatings. Others with similar claims remain behind bars, hoping to seize on precedent from Wrice’s case to expedite their appeals. Lawyers will argue next week that these inmate should be certified as a class so they can argue together that they should be granted new trials.

Burge was fired from the Chicago Police Department in 1993, after an internal investigation found that his abuse was “systematic” over more than a decade. More than 148 individuals — mostly black men — came forward to report that Burge had smothered them, imposed electric shock, and forced them into a hot radiator. Burge’s misconduct led to the state’s death penalty moratorium in 2000. But it took another decade before a special prosecutor embarked on an extensive investigation of Burge’s behavior. It found foul play, but said it would not pursue action against Burge, in part because the statutes of limitations had expired in the cases. Then in 2008, prosecutors developed another way to snag Burge in a civil trial. They charged him with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying about his actions at trial, and in 2011, he was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison.

At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow lamented, “How can one trust that justice will be served when the justice system has been so defiled?” She added, “Perhaps the praise, publicity and commendations you received for solving these awful crimes was seductive and may have led you down this path. On your behalf how I wish that there had not been such a dismal failure of leadership in the (police) department that it came to this.”

While Burge’s case is extreme, this reward system exists in any of a number of police departments and law enforcement agencies, accompanied by rare punishment for wrongdoing. False confessions alone account for about 25 of wrongful convictions exposed by DNA, and many others derive from testimony by witnesses who are coerced through both poor treatment and incentives.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

My Stupid State: Florida Police Arrest, Jail, Harass Innocent Black Man 258 Times

My Stupid State: Florida Police Arrest, Jail, Harass Innocent Black Man 258 Times
by SemDemFollow for DKos Florida
Daily Kos group
Nov 30, 2013

#37 for My Stupid State series....

Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in 4 years, on average more than once a week. He has been arrested 62 times for trespassing: at the store he WORKS AT!

The store's owner, Alex Saleh, had enough of the racial profiling of his employees and customers. He installed 15 surveillance cameras--not to protect from criminals (he has never been robbed) but because of the non-stop harassment of Sampson and others. The video below shows just one instance: Earl Sampson is taking out the garbage, and as soon as he goes back in the store, he is pulled out forcibly by the cop and arrested for trespassing.

(If you can't see the embedded video, the Miami Herald has a series of them here.)

Even though the store owner is there and repeatedly tells the cops he is an employee, they arrest him anyway.

I said, 'I'm the owner, let him go. I work here.' The officer said, 'Yeah right.'


Most of us have never been stopped and searched by police, let alone hundreds of times. Miami Gardens Police Chief Matthew Boyd needs to be fired. There is no way he didn't know about this. The cops need to be fired and sued. I am glad the store owner and his attorneys are filing a civil suit. Being a former cop myself, this type of behavior fills me with rage. They are harassing the very people they need to be protecting.

The store owner is a brave man for standing up for the rights of his customers and employees. According to the Huffington Post, he has been repeatedly threatened and harassed by the Miami Gardens PD since this story broke.

I know there are some in my state who would disagree with me, but the fact of the matter is being a minority is not a crime. Even if you are from Florida.

12:58 PM PT: Local News Report:

6:38 PM PT: The police chief will be stepping down

Originally posted to DKos Florida on Sat Nov 30, 2013 at 12:31 PM PST. Also republished by Police Accountability Group.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Kendrick Johnson footage released; expert finds it 'highly suspicious'

Education attorneys at Lowndes County Schools insist the video they released of the day student Kendrick Johnson died is "a raw feed with no edits."

"(The surveillance video has) been altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in dropped information, information loss," he said. "There are also a number of files that are corrupted because they've not been processed correctly and they're not playable. I can't say why they were done that way, but they were not done correctly, and they were not done thoroughly. So we're missing information." --Grant Fredericks, forensic video analyst


Click link to see school videos:
Kendrick Johnson footage released; expert finds it 'highly suspicious'
From Victor Blackwell
CNN
November 21, 2013

Missing video in teen gym-mat death?

(CNN) -- Kendrick Johnson's family waited months for hundreds of hours of surveillance video, hoping it would answer their questions. It only raised others.

Rather than showing how their 17-year-old son's body ended up in a school gym mat in January, the four cameras inside the Valdosta, Georgia, gymnasium showed only a few collective seconds of Johnson, jogging. The camera fixed on the gym mats was blurry.

Compounding the family's suspicions was the nature of the gym videos. They're jumpy, with students intermittently appearing and vanishing, and they bear no obvious timestamps.

The Johnsons' attorneys were not shy in stating their suspicion that someone could have tampered with the videos.

"They know their child did not climb into a wrestling mat, get stuck and die. Where is that video?" Benjamin Crump asked.

"We don't have any time code with which to synchronize the events that are shown in the video. ... Either the cameras did this on their own or a human being interacted to make these cameras do these things," King said.

Crump further said the family believes someone "corrupted" the video.

Lowndes County Schools insists the video is "a raw feed with no edits," and the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office, which asserts Johnson accidentally died while reaching for a shoe in one of the mats, says it didn't edit any files, according to their lawyers.

CNN, which filed suit to secure access to the video, hired forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks to analyze more than 290 hours of material from all 35 cameras inside and outside of the gym. Fredericks is a U.S. Justice Department consultant and contract instructor for the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

CNN also provided Fredericks and his company, the Spokane, Washington-based Forensic Video Solutions, with hundreds more hours of video from 31 cameras in other parts of Lowndes County High School.

Fredericks quickly knocked down the Johnsons' concerns -- they're all easily explained, he said -- but his examination raised what could be another mystery: at least an hour of missing video from all four cameras inside the gym.

"Those files are not original files," Fredericks said. "They're not something investigators should rely on for the truth of the video."

Addressing the Johnsons' suspicions, Fredericks said the erratic motion in the video can be attributed to motion sensors triggering the cameras' recording function, and the blurriness on the camera homing in on the gym mats is the product of an out-of-focus lens. As for the time stamp, it's there; investigators just need to know where to look, he said.

Fredericks was able to find a little more than 18 minutes of video showing Johnson throughout the school on January 10. He's first seen at 7:31 a.m. entering school and last seen at 1:09 p.m., walking into the gym where he was found dead the next day.

What Fredericks wasn't able to find was video showing whether there was anyone in the gym when Johnson was there -- images that could prove vital in determining how the teen died.

"(The surveillance video has) been altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in dropped information, information loss," he said. "There are also a number of files that are corrupted because they've not been processed correctly and they're not playable. I can't say why they were done that way, but they were not done correctly, and they were not done thoroughly. So we're missing information."

Two cameras in the gym are missing an hour and five minutes, their hiatus ending at 1:09, when Johnson enters the gym. Another pair of cameras are missing two hours and 10 minutes each. They don't begin recording again until 1:15 and 1:16, according to their time stamps.

What's certain, based on video from a camera outside the gym, is that numerous students walked into the gym during the hour and five minutes that the cameras weren't recording, but it's not clear whether that was sufficient to activate the cameras' motion sensors.

The time stamp on a camera outside the gym also appears to be 10 minutes behind the cameras inside the gym.

"I can't tell you whether there was no information recorded in the digital video system or whether somebody made an error and didn't capture it or whether somebody just didn't provide it," Fredericks said.

CNN has requested access to the original surveillance servers. But Fredericks cautions that the video could be gone, as newer surveillance would replace it if it wasn't recovered promptly from the school's digital video recorder.

The police have said they didn't receive a copy of the videos until several days after Johnson's body was found, according to an unredacted report obtained by CNN after a legal process.

Fredericks told CNN he found it "highly suspicious" that an hour of video could be missing, especially considering how the material was acquired by police.

"The investigator's responsibility is to acquire the entire digital video recording system and have their staff define what they want to obtain," he said.

According to an incident report from the Sheriff's Office, however, a detective watched a portion of the video then asked an information technology officer employed by the school board to produce a "copy of the surveillance video for the entire wing of the school with the old gym for the last 48 hours."

Five days later, the sheriff's report says, the IT officer delivered a hard drive to the detective, who verified it contained what he requested.

"Right now, what they've done, is they've left it up to the school district as to what it is they want to provide to the police, and I think that probably is a mistake," Fredericks said.

"You don't want somebody who might be party to the responsibility to make the decision as to what they provide the police."

We're going to fight until it's all over, until we get the truth. --Jacquelyn Johnson, Kendrick Johnson's mother


He added, "Until I have the digital video system in my hand and I can say, or an investigator can say, 'Everything is intact, and this is what was recorded,' I would still be highly suspicious of this."

The Johnson family will now have to wait to see whether the school's surveillance servers shed more light on their son's death, but the teen's parents say they won't be deterred.

"We are Kendrick Johnson," his mother, Jacquelyn Johnson, said. "That's my child, and we're going to fight until it's all over, until we get the truth. That's all we've ever asked for -- was the truth about what happened to Kendrick Johnson."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Man seeking help after North Carolina car crash shot by police


Is there sadness or remorse in police officer Randall Kerrick's expression after killing an unarmed man who was seeking help? This case is reminiscent of the Trayvon Martin case: a young, unarmed black man in a white neighborhood arouses deadly suspicion.
College student Jonathan Ferrell before his car accident and being shot dead by Randall Kerrick.

N.C. police shoot unarmed man who survived car accident
Reuters
September 15, 2013

(Reuters) - Police in Charlotte, North Carolina, shot dead an unarmed man who was running toward police officers and may have been just trying to get help after crashing his car, authorities said.

A police officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter for Saturday's shooting, and an attorney for the victim's family said on Sunday he believed race played a role in the death of Jonathan Ferrell, 24, who was black.

"If Mr. Farrell was not black or brown, wouldn't they have asked him a few questions before showering him with bullets?" said attorney Chris Chestnut, who said he would request all police evidence from the shooting.

Farrell, seeking help after the accident, knocked on a door in a predominantly white neighborhood, Chestnut said.

A woman called the 911 emergency operator after Ferrell began knocking insistently on her front door about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said.

The woman, who immediately closed the door on Ferrell after seeing it was not her husband, was likely unaware he had just crawled out of his wrecked car in nearby woods, police said.

Three police officers arrived, finding Ferrell a short distance from the woman's house. As soon as the officers got out of their vehicles, Ferrell started running toward them, police said.

One officer unsuccessfully fired a Taser at Ferrell, and he kept running. Randall Kerrick, another officer, then shot Ferrell several times with his service weapon, killing him, police said.

Police found Ferrell's wrecked car later in the morning.

The police department has placed all three officers on administrative leave while they investigate the shooting. Detectives charged Kerrick with voluntary manslaughter on Saturday.

"Our investigation has shown that Officer Kerrick did not have a lawful right to discharge his weapon during this encounter," the police department said in a statement.

Ferrell was a former football player for Florida A&M University in Tallahassee who had recently moved to Charlotte with his fiancee to continue his studies at Johnson C. Smith University, Chestnut said.

Ferrell was on the Florida A&M roster in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, playing safety, the university said in a statement.

Chestnut, based in Atlanta, represents the family of Florida A&M drum major Robert Champion, who was killed in a hazing incident in 2011. Twelve former band members have been charged with manslaughter, and the family is suing the university for wrongful death.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Jackie Frank)

(Reporting By Jonathan Allen; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prisons for profits, punishment: What about preventing harm?

Yesterday, thousands of people in California prisons entered a second week of hunger strikes, their nonviolent protest against dehumanizing practices used throughout the state’s prison system.

Their commitment to reform begs us to ask: What would a system of justice look like that truly restores and protects everyone in a community—healing all who have suffered, restoring right relationship between the wrongdoer and the wronged, creating conditions to prevent further harm?

Whether it’s among prisoners in California or Michigan or in a Peace Village in Burundi, we see every day that the path to peace begins with justice grounded not in retribution or revenge, but in healing and reconciliation. We have learned that even the most painful wounds can begin to heal when people have a safe space to tell their truths, to share their pain, and to listen deeply in a joint search for reconciliation.

Peter Martel’s personal experiences have taught him that “love, support, and knowledge are more effective in creating a better world than punitive, retributive actions will ever be.”

Peter spent a decade in solitary confinement for armed robbery charges before becoming program associate with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Michigan. Now he works to reduce recidivism by helping people behind prison walls, offering some of the same services that—along with his family’s love and support—helped him find the power to transform his life.

Peter tells his story in the recent issue of Quaker Action devoted to accounts of AFSC’s restorative justice work around the world. You can also read about the healing process of truth-telling that’s bringing together perpetrators and victims in Maine and Burundi, and reflections from one of the mediators selected by California prisoners currently on hunger strike on why now is the time to change our prison system. Find these stories and more at afsc.org/quakeraction.

AFSC and our partners are modeling a new paradigm built on transformation and wholeness rather than on punishment and retribution—but we’re also working to change systems that rely on the inevitability of violence.

The disturbing trend of privatizing incarceration puts the pursuit of profits ahead of the needs of taxpayers, prisoners, and prison employees. Tomorrow, I hope you can join AFSC for a special online discussion featuring three of our prison experts who are working on the ground to advocate against privatization...

In Peace,

Shan Cretin, General Secretary

American Friends Service Committee
1501 Cherry Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Monday, May 27, 2013

Not-so-nice IRS agent

Did This Guy Prepare YOUR Taxes?
Don Bauder
San Diego Reader
August 10, 2012

Steven Martinez of Ramona, a tax preparer and former agent with the Internal Revenue Service, pleaded guilty today (Aug. 10) in federal court to charges of murder-for-hire, witness tampering that involved attempted murder, mail fraud, filing false tax returns, Social Security fraud, identity theft and money laundering. According to the U.S. Attorney's office, in February Martinez solicited an individual to bump off four former clients, victims of his fraud, who were slated to testify against him in a criminal tax case. The individual went to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and reported the murder-for-hire solicitation. Then a meeting between Martinez and the individual was recorded and videotaped. Martinez offered $100,000 if the individual knocked off women of Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Martinez even suggested how the murders should be pulled off -- with two different pistols with silencers. Martinez admitted that he filed false tax returns and defrauded his clients by stealing more than $11 million in tax payments. A sentencing hearing will be before U.S. District Judge William Q. Hayes Nov. 30.