Sunday 21 January 2018

Former Fine Gael social media guru convicted of federal crimes in the US

Ravneet ‘Ravi’ Singh. Picture: Twitter
Ravneet ‘Ravi’ Singh. Picture: Twitter

Ian Begley

A former social media guru for Fine Gael has been convicted of federal crimes in the United States.

Ravneet ‘Ravi’ Singh (44), a self-proclaimed campaign guru, was convicted of illegally channelling over $500,000 (€448,380) to support two former mayoral candidates in San Diego, California in September.

The consultant’s first contact with Fine Gael was in July 2010 and he then came on board to drive Fine Gael’s online election campaign the following year.

While speaking in Dublin, he talked about how it was his idea to temporarily shut down Fine Gael’s website and replacing it with a video of Enda Kenny, inviting people to share their views. He also claimed responsibility for the ticker tape comment feature on their website.

Singh was arrested by the FBI in January 2014 and charged over conspiring to finance campaigns using money from wealthy Mexican businessman José Susumo Azano Matsura. He was also charged for falsifying records of the spending.

Singh pleaded not guilty and his trial began on July 26.

Prosecutors say that Singh had been paid $290,000 (€258,900) of the some $500,000 (€446,380) Azano funneled to the candidates as well as the San Diego County Democratic Party and the DCCC through car dealer Marc Chase and Ernie Encinas, a former San Diego police detective.

Both men, who used straw donors to distribute the funds, pleaded guilty in 2014 trials.

According to authorities, Azano was trying to get a friendly politician into the mayor’s office so he could build a Miami-style development on the waterfront in San Diego.

According to Singh’s LinkedIn page he has worked over 21 countries and helped over nine heads of state. He claims he has helped corporate executives, celebrities and organisations understand the full potential and importance of digital marketing and social media in today's world.

Singh was convicted on all charges by a jury in San Diego on Friday after a trial which began on July 26.

He is due to be sentenced in December.

On the conspiracy count alone, Singh faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, $250,000 (€223,190)fine and a $100 (€89) special assessment, according to the US Justice Department.

He also claimed to be one of the consultants responsible for digital media on President Obama’s 2008 campaign, and according to Politico this helped him land work on several campaigns including for Fine Gael, a Brazilian presidential candidate, and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.

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