Disgraced former SF public works chief Mohammed Nuru sentenced to 7 years for corruption
“Mohammed Nuru knows and deeply accepts that the conduct he engaged in was wrongful, prolonged and inexcusable,” said Miles Ehrlich, Nuru’s attorney. “It was a violation of the trust placed in him by the citizens of San Francisco, his colleagues and his friends. In the public mind, it will overshadow all the good he has done in his life as a public servant, and may “Maybe Mr. Nuru knows deep down that he should.”
Ehrlich also argued that Nuru deserved a lighter sentence, citing Nuru’s poor health due to diabetes, a recent heart attack and two surgeries for heart issues.
In response, US attorney Alexandra Shepard argued that Nuru had lied and laundered money for years. When he was arrested, he spent days, almost a week, sabotaging the investigation by warning people under investigation.
“That’s who he is,” Shepard said.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office requested a particularly harsh sentence for Nuru since, after the FBI quietly arrested him in January 2020, Nuru leaked the investigation to multiple people. In doing so, he “caused incalculable damage to the investigation,” the U.S. attorney’s office wrote in a sentencing memo a week before Nuru’s sentencing date, saying the leak warned potential targets and exposed them. jeopardize the FBI’s ability to obtain evidence.
“A substantial sentence would send a message to other officials that using their office for their own benefit will result in a significant prison sentence,” the US attorney’s office wrote.
In response, Nuru’s attorney wrote that Nuru regretted his wrongdoing and “Mohammed Nuru apologizes to the people of San Francisco, to this court, and to his family and friends for violating the public trust “.
His acts of corruption do not represent “the whole of him”, they argued, adding that Nuru taught marginalized and incarcerated youths how to farm, and provided education and training jobs in his role at the department. public works. They also claimed that Nuru had raised five children as a single parent after his ex-wife became addicted to drugs, and was helping them and his elderly parents financially.
But the US Attorney’s Office argued that Nuru did not commit these crimes due to financial hardship, citing his annual salary of $278,586.
After the FBI revelations, Nuru’s nickname “Mr. Clean,” given for his department’s efforts to make the city shine, turned out to be the height of irony. The U.S. Attorney’s Office described Nuru’s scheme as “a tale of greed as old as time.”
They said Nuru had “shaken” contractors for more than $1 million in cash, goods and services over a 12-year period. Much of those ill-gotten gains went to pay for his ranch in Stonyford, California. This ranch was a cash cow for contractors seeking to influence Nuru: he gave them favorable treatment in city contracts after custom-building and furnishing it.
Nuru also often enlisted the help of contractors to shore up his San Francisco home; a city contractor carried out this work for free in 2008, when Nuru was Deputy Director of the Department of Public Works.
“Nuru was the quintessential con artist, using his position at DPW to enrich himself in multiple ways,” the US attorney’s office wrote.
Nuru was far from alone in his crimes.
After the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office revealed their explosive allegations against Nuru in January 2020, one by one new San Francisco officials were accused of taking bribes, and prominent members of San Francisco’s well-known community of politicians for their good charitable deeds turned out to be in the scheme. Most have already pleaded guilty.
Since Nuru was first arrested, the federal government has charged former San Francisco Public Utilities Commission chief executive Harlan Kelly and the head of the mayor’s office “troubleshooting team,” Sandra Zuniga, in related corruption schemes.
Nuru, Kelly and Zuniga all worked under Mayor of London Breed, and Breed counted Nuru, Kelly and Kelly’s wife Naomi Kelly as lifelong friends and allies for years. Naomi Kelly resigned as city administrator after her husband was arrested, although she was not charged; Carmen Chu took her place.
Breed has publicly revealed that she once counted Nuru as a romantic partner, and a weeks after Nuru was charged by the FBI, she acknowledged in a statement that Nuru had paid for the expenses related to repairs to her car in 2019. Last year, she agreed to pay an $8,292 fine for accepting the gift.
Since Nuru’s arrest, Breed has sought to distance himself from Nuru. Breed and the Municipal Comptroller’s Office also sought to close loopholes in municipal law that allowed much of the corruption under their noses to take place.
Nuru’s co-conspirators, construction contractor Walter Wong and Lefty O’Doul’s restaurant owner Nick Bovis, have also been charged by the federal government. Wong helped connect now-indicted officials with a luxury developer who sought to bribe them, and Wong himself has admitted to bribing officials for contracts. Bovis created a fake baseball charity that funneled bribes to Nuru so he could shower his employees with extravagant parties.
Other contractors in town were also indicted for bribing Nuru: Balmore Hernandez, Alan Varela, and Bill Gilmartin all provided workers and materials to help build or improve Nuru’s ranch. Hernandez, Varela and Gilmartin presented Nuru with a John Deere tractor worth $40,000.
Paul Fredrick Giusti, working for waste management company Recology, gave Nuru a “continuous flow” of money and benefits. He allegedly funneled more than $1 million in kickbacks from Recology, through restaurateur Nick Bovis’ baseball charity, to Nuru. Giusti also found jobs for Nuru’s son. In return, Nuru reportedly gave Recology favorable treatment by setting garbage rates and securing millions of dollars in city contracts. City Attorney Dennis Herrera reached an agreement with Recology in March 2021 to pay off $95 million in misbilled garbage bills issued under Nuru’s control.
All pleaded guilty, except Kelly.
Finally, in an effort related to the federal investigation, the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office also charged former San Francisco Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui with having an inappropriate dinner. with a luxury property developer who wanted to curry favor with the department. Hui resigned after the allegations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.