Mohammed Nuru

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Mohammed Nuru (born November 15, 1962, England) is an American former civil servant and convicted criminal. He was formerly the Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works where he was involved in a corruption scandal.

Mohammed Nuru
Born (1962-11-15) November 15, 1962 (age 61)
England, United Kingdom
Alma materKansas State University
Employer(s)City and County of San Francisco
Criminal chargesHonest services fraud
Criminal penalty84 months in federal prison
Criminal statusIncarcerated

Personal life[edit]

Nuru was born in the United Kingdom and raised on a farm in Nigeria. In 1983, he immigrated to the United States to study landscape architecture at Kansas State University.[1]

Nuru and San Francisco mayor London Breed dated.[2][3] Following the corruption scandal, Breed acknowledged having accepted gifts from Nuru during her tenure as Mayor and was fined $8,292 for the ethics violation. The gift involved Nuru paying for repairs to Breed's car.[4][5]

Career[edit]

In 2011 Nuru became the director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works.[6] During his time as director he worked to improve street sanitation[7] and oversaw drastic changes to the Market Street corridor.[8] Addressing homelessness was a major concern during his time as Director; however Nuru diverted homelessness alleviation funds to his friends.[9]

Nuru was instrumental in adopting the use of liquid repellent paint on city infrastructure to discourage public urination.[10]

He was the chairman of the board of directors at the Transbay Joint Powers Authority.[11]

Corruption scandal[edit]

Nuru was arrested by the FBI in January 2020 under charges of "corruption, bribery kickbacks and side deals".[12][13]

Having previously been "placed on leave and removed from all decision-making since the arrest", Nuru resigned on February 10, 2020, as announced by Mayor Breed."[14]

In June 2021 Nuru was arrested for brandishing a knife at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank in Dogpatch in a case unconnected to the alleged bribery.[15] Nuru underwent a court ordered psychiatric evaluation and no charges resulted from the arrest.[16]

In January 2022 Nuru pled guilty to one count of fraud in exchange for a plea bargain.[17] Nuru was subsequently sentenced to 84 months (7 years) in federal prison.[18][19] After he was sentenced, Nuru was stripped of his city pension of $7,600 per month.[20] As of 1 March 2023 Nuru is incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary, Lompoc, California.[21]

Over a dozen San Francisco employees and city contractors have been either charged or found guilty of bribery, money laundering, and fraud as part of the Nuru corruption scandal.[22][23][24]

In February 2021, developer Florence Kong pleaded guilty of bribery and making false statements to FBI investigators. She had bribed Nuru with gifts, including a Rolex watch worth over $36,000.[25] She was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $95,000.[26] She was released from prison on January 13, 2022.[21]

On November 30, 2022, a Chinese billionaire and co-founder and owner of a multinational construction firm, Guangzhou-based R&F Properties, Zhang Li, was arrested in London, England, on charges of bribing Nuru to obtain construction permits. Zhang was released on bail of £15,000,000.[27][28][29] In July 2023, Zhang was extradited to San Francisco and admitted bribing Nuru in order to fast-track one of his projects in the city. Zhang plied Nuru with meals, gifts, hotel stays, and other benefits in exchange for Nuru's help in securing favorable treatment for the project. Zhang has agreed to pay a $50,000 fine and admit his bribes and other corrupt acts as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. If he abides by the terms of the deal, the charges against him will be dropped in three years. As part of Zhang's plea deal, his U.S.-based company, Z&L Properties, was fined $1 million.[30][31][32][33][34]

In May 2023, John Porter, a former vice-president with the trash-hauling company Recology pled guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire and mail fraud having bribed Nuru more than $55,000. As part of the plea deal, additional charges, including money laundering, against Porter were dropped.[35][36] In September 2023, Porter was sentenced to three years probation, including six months of house arrest, fined $30,000 and had to perform 300 hours of community service.[37]

In June 2023, federal prosecutors accused Ken Hong Wong of bribing Nuru with $20,000 to secure a job in the Department of Public Works for a recent college graduate.[38][39] Wong subsequently pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery. He was sentenced to six months in prison and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.[40]

Also in June 2023, the San Francisco City Attorney announced that seven companies involved in the scandal were barred from doing business with the City for up to five years. The City Attorney was seeking to ban an additional four companies.[41]

On July 14, 2023, a jury found Harlan Kelly, the former general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC), guilty of several fraud-related crimes. Kelly was charged in relation to two alleged schemes: the first involved benefits he allegedly accepted from a businessman and expediter named Walter Wong who was looking to secure contracts for his department; the second involved Kelly allegedly lying about his debts to a loan company in an application that was submitted with the aid of real estate tycoon Victor Makras. Kelly was found guilty of one count of conspiring to commit honest services fraud, one count of honest services wire fraud, and one count of giving false information to a loan firm after being tried on eight counts. He was found not guilty of two counts related to costs for repairs Wong performed on his home and for the hotel bill in Hong Kong.[42][43][44]

Bernie Curran, a former senior building inspector for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI), was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison on July 14, 2023. Curran pleaded guilty to two counts of accepting illegal gratuities in exchange for approving permits for projects that were not up to code. Curran was accused of accepting cash, tickets to sporting events, and other gifts from developers. The investigation into Curran's corruption began in 2019, and he was fired from the DBI in 2021. As part of his sentence, Curran was also ordered to pay $1 million in restitution to the DBI for the costs of auditing his work.[45][46][47] Following Curran's guilty plea in the federal case, details of the bribes he accepted were revealed in various court documents. In August 2023, Yosef Tahbazof, an attorney and real estate developer, resigned from the San Francisco Assessment Appeals Board after allegations were made that he had facilitated forgiveness of a loan that his father, Sia Tahbazof, made to Curran's daughter, Siofra Curran.[47][48][49] In October 2023, Curran was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to concealing monetary payments and violating California conflict of interest laws. He admitted to accepting payments from a developer as a reward. He will serve the state and federal sentences concurrently.[50]

In November 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice charged two former construction building plan engineers employed by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection, Cyril Yu and Rodolfo Pada, with one count each of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud for accepting bribes to expedite building permits. The bribes consisted of money, meals drinks and other benefits. Pada was additionally charged with accepting and concealing an interest-free loan of $85,000 from Freydoon Ghassemzadeh, an executive of his family's construction planning and design firm. The DoJ charging documents also describe three unindicted co-conspirators.[51][52] Both Yu and Pada have pleaded not guilty. If convicted they could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to $250,000.[53]

In November 2023, Siavash “Sia” Tahbazof, a prominent San Francisco developer, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud for allegedly paying bribes to city officials in exchange for favorable treatment on building permits and inspections. Tahbazof is the founder of SIA Consulting, a design and engineering firm, and SST Investments, a development company. He is accused of paying bribes to three former employees of the Department of Building Inspection (DBI): Bernard Curran, a senior inspector; Rodolfo “Rudy” Pada, a plan checker; and Cyril Yu, a plan checker. The bribes allegedly included an $85,000 interest-free loan to Pada and free meals and drinks for Yu. SIA co-owner Reza Koshnevisan and Bahman Ghassemzadeh, who is Tahbazof’s nephew and worked as a civil engineer at the firm were also charged in the scheme.[54][55] All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.[56][57]

Further reading[edit]

  • Calton, Christopher (August 2, 2023). "Why corruption so easily festers in San Francisco City Hall". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  • Barned-Smith, St. John (August 24, 2023). "'Brazen': How notorious S.F. engineer at heart of City Hall scandal hid corruption in plain sight for years". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved August 25, 2023.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Swan, Rachel (January 31, 2020). "Mohammed Nuru's friends in high places now lying low". sfchronicle.com. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  2. ^ "SF Mayor London Breed Discloses She Once Dated Indicted Former Public Works Director Nuru". KPIX-TV. February 14, 2020. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  3. ^ Fracassa, Dominic (February 15, 2020). "SF corruption probe: Mayor Breed dated Nuru years ago, discloses 'gift' from him". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  4. ^ WHITE, JEREMY B. "London Breed is beating the progressives. But is she actually fixing anything?". politico.com. Politico. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  5. ^ "San Francisco mayor London Breed fined for 'significant' ethics breaches". The Guardian. August 4, 2021.
  6. ^ "Former SF Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru Agrees To Plea Guilty 'To A Staggering Amount Of Public Corruption'". cbsnews.com. CBS News. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  7. ^ Bloom, Johnathan. "San Francisco Turns to Tech for New Tools to Fight Dirty Streets". nbcbayarea.com. NBC. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  8. ^ Wilson, Tiffany. "Plan approved to ban private cars on San Francisco's busy Market Street". abc7news.com. ABC News. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  9. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald. "SF Supervisor Seeks to Restore Oversight of Homeless Shelter Contracts Amid Corruption Scandal". kqed.org. KQED. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  10. ^ "San Francisco introduces 'urine-repellant paint' to discourage public peeing". South China Morning Post. August 13, 2015. Retrieved August 16, 2023.
  11. ^ "Contractor Who Managed Building of Salesforce Transit Center Sues for $150 Million". nbcbayarea.com. NBC. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  12. ^ Heather Knight (January 28, 2020). "SF mayors embraced Mohammed Nuru, now charged with corruption, despite red flags". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  13. ^ Barba, Michael; Sabatini, Joshua; Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (January 28, 2020). "Mohammed Nuru, head of SF Public Works, arrested in FBI corruption probe". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  14. ^ "SF Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru resigns in wake of corruption scandal". KGO-TV. February 10, 2020. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  15. ^ Sierra, Stephanie (June 2, 2021). "Mohammed Nuru arrested for allegedly pulling knife on someone, trying to steal chips". abc7news.com. ABC News. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  16. ^ Gartrell, Nate (June 7, 2021). "Federal judge orders former SF public works director Mohammed Nuru to undergo mental health evaluation after arrest". eastbaytimes.com. East Bay Times. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  17. ^ Barrman, Jay (January 6, 2022). "Mohammed Nuru Says Little, Enters Guilty Plea in SF Fraud Case". sfist.com. SFist. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
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  20. ^ Morris, J.D. (July 28, 2023). "These former S.F. officials convicted in corruption probe are losing their pensions". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  21. ^ a b "Inmate Locator". BOP. February 28, 2021. Retrieved March 1, 2023.
  22. ^ Jarrett, Will; Eskenazi, Joe (November 3, 2021). "Web of corruption: Explore the cronyism, lies, and federal crimes at the heart of San Francisco's government". Mission Local.
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  24. ^ Baustin, Noah (August 4, 2023) [February 1, 2023]. "San Francisco Corruption Scandal: A Guide to the Players Involved". The San Francisco Standard. Retrieved August 6, 2023.
  25. ^ Gartrell, Nate (February 9, 2021). "SF contractor to be sentenced in federal public corruption probe; she bribed public works director with $36.5k Rolex". mercurynews.com. The Mercury News. Retrieved July 26, 2022.
  26. ^ "Florence Kong Sentenced To One Year In Prison In Bribery Scandal". SFGATE. February 12, 2021.
  27. ^ Umanzor, Joel (December 14, 2022). "Billionaire CEO arrested in London after U.S. prosecutors issue warrant in S.F. bribery case". San Francisco Chronicle.
  28. ^ Eskenazi, Joe (December 14, 2022). "Zhang Li, billionaire developer, arrested on Nuru bribery charges". Mission Local.
  29. ^ Li, Han (December 14, 2022). "Chinese Real Estate Tycoon Arrested in London Over SF Corruption Case". The San Francisco Standard. Retrieved June 8, 2023.
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  44. ^ Rodriguez, Joe Fitzgerald (July 14, 2023). "Jury Convicts Top SF Official in Corruption Trial — Here Are 5 Takeaways". KQED. Retrieved July 21, 2023.
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