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Former SF Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru Agrees To Plea Guilty 'To A Staggering Amount Of Public Corruption'

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Mohammed Nuru, the key figure in a San Francisco City Hall Public Works scandal that has to led numerous convictions, has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud, federal prosecutors announced on Friday.

The announcement came in a joint statement issued by Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair, and Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Pearson.

The government indicated in the plea agreement its intent to ask a federal judge to sentence Nuru to nine years in prison. He may also face fines of $250,000 or more.

The 59-year-old Nuru served as San Francisco Department of Public Work's Director from 2011 until federal corruption charges were brought against him in 2020.

In anticipation of entering his plea agreement resolving his cases, Nuru was arraigned Friday on charges that encompassed a sweeping scheme to defraud the San Francisco public of its right to his honest services.

"Mohammed Nuru admits to a staggering amount of public corruption in his plea agreement," Hinds said in a news release. "For years, Nuru held a powerful and well-paid public leadership position at San Francisco City Hall, but instead of serving the public, Nuru served himself."

"He took continuous bribes from the contractors, developers, and entities he regulated," Hinds continued. "He now faces a prison sentence for enriching himself at the expense of the public as he sat in high office. Federal authorities will investigate public corruption wherever it leads in San Francisco and throughout the district."

Fair emphasized that the investigation into corruption would be continuing.

"Today's announcement, while significant, is by no means the end of the FBI's investigation into the corrupt conduct we have uncovered in San Francisco city government," Fair said. "We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to personally benefit by corrupting the fair administration of public business and we will persist in our commitment to protect the integrity of the institutions that serve the people of San Francisco."

In a statement to KPIX 5, Nuru's attorney Ismail Ramsey said his client wanted to begin to put the scandal behind him.

"Mohammed is ready to accept responsibility in this matter and begin to put it behind him," Ramsey said. "He has learned a lot from his past mistakes. Going forward, he intends to focus on his health and dedicate himself to improving the lives of others and this community in any way he can."

Nuru signed Friday's plea agreement and the agreement has been filed with the United States District Court in preparation for his upcoming appearance to enter his guilty plea orally.

To date, 12 individuals and three corporate entities have been charged in the scandal investigation, including two high-ranking San Francisco public officials, Nuru and Harlan Kelly. Multiple city contractors and facilitators have been charged.

Allegations in the complaint filed against Kelly assert that he received thousands of dollars in airfare, meals, jewelry, and travel expenses, along with repair work on his house.

Among those charged in the case were two former executives at Recology Inc., a waste management company that provides garbage collection services in San Francisco.

As DPW director, Nuru presided over the process governing the rates Recology could charge in San Francisco. Nuru admitted that he accepted numerous valuable items from Recology and used his official position to help Recology's business. Among other things, Recology paid for soil to be delivered to Nuru's ranch property in Colusa County, for expensive meals for Nuru and for a two-night trip to New York on the City's business in December 2017.

Nuru admitted he requested that Recology fund his DPW holiday parties. Between 2016 and 2019, Recology paid approximately $60,000 for that purpose. Recology made the payments through the Lefty O'Doul's Foundation, a non-profit organization run by Nick Bovis.

Two former Recology executives, Paul F. Giusti and John F. Porter, have been charged in the investigation. Giusti was charged in November 2020 and Porter was charged in April 2021. Both men were charged with bribery of Nuru and money laundering involving Nuru.

Giusti pleaded guilty in August 2021 to engaging in a conspiracy to bribe Nuru and is cooperating with the government's corruption investigation. Porter's charges remain pending.

Nuru also admitted to helping Bovis in a plan to win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport. Bovis expected to make money from the SFO concession and Nuru expected Bovis would continue to provide bribes in exchange for Nuru's help with the airport concession process and other public contracts.

The former DPW director also admitted to giving Bovis a price list of appliances that Nuru wanted for his ranch in or about 2018, a time when Bovis was seeking Nuru's assistance with the SFO concession and other city business opportunities. Bovis purchased the appliances and brought them to Nuru's ranch.

Bovis pleaded guilty in May 2020 to wire fraud and honest services wire fraud involving Nuru and agreed to cooperate in the government's corruption investigation.

Nuru also admitted in his plea agreement that he accepted a gold Rolex watch from Bay Area businesswoman Florence kong. The watch was valued at approximately $36,550. Nuru admitted he used his official position to benefit Kong's businesses and did so in exchange for the Rolex and for cash, free meals, and other items of value provided by Kong, including an iron fence installed at Nuru's ranch.

Kong was charged and pleaded guilty to bribery of Nuru and to making false statements to FBI agents during the investigation. She was sentenced in February 2021 to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay a $95,000 fine.

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