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Politics & Policy

‘Staggering corruption’: Mohammed Nuru admits to taking bribes, Feds want 9-year sentence

Source: Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Nearly two years after his arrest kicked off a sprawling corruption scandal at City Hall, former Public Works head Mohammed Nuru has admitted to taking bribes under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors announced Friday.

The agreement calls for Nuru, 59, to plead guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud and admit to what federal prosecutors describe as a "staggering amount of public corruption."

In turn, the U.S. Attorney's Office plans to dismiss two other pending charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and making false statements to the FBI. Prosecutors also agreed to recommend a sentence no greater than nine years in custody.

The deal makes no mention of Nuru cooperating with the ongoing FBI investigation.

The news marks a significant development in an FBI corruption probe into San Francisco's City Hall that has ensnared a bevy of city officials and contractors since Nuru was first charged in January 2020, alongside his friend and restaurateur Nick Bovis.

Nuru appeared virtually Friday for a brief court appearance and is expected to change his plea early next month. In an email, his attorney said Nuru was “ready to accept responsibility in this matter and begin to put it behind him.”

“He has learned a lot from his past mistakes,” said his attorney, Ismail Ramsey. “Going forward, he intends to focus on his health and dedicate himself to improving the lives of others and his community in any way he can.”

While much is already known about Nuru's conduct, the newly filed plea agreement adds fresh color on his activities and also reveals the existence of previously undisclosed bribes.

Those bribes include cash payments totaling $20,000 that Nuru admitted to accepting from an unnamed "former government employee" in exchange for helping someone get an engineering job with the city. The person ultimately was "not able to maintain employment with the city."

Nuru also took bribes from an unnamed "prominent developer in San Francisco" who would usually give him a couple thousand dollars in cash around the holidays, including in 2019. The developer would then "call me if he had any problems with DPW-related approvals or other matters and I would help resolve whatever issues he was facing."

While those individuals are only referred to as "FORMER GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE 1" and "DEVELOPER 2" in the plea agreement, their identities are known to federal authorities and they could very well be in legal jeopardy given the allegations against them.

Craig Fair, special agent in charge of the local FBI division, said the latest news is "by no means the end of the FBI’s investigation into the corrupt conduct we have uncovered in San Francisco city government."

“We will continue to hold accountable those who seek to personally benefit by corrupting the fair administration of public business," Fair said in a statement.

So far, Nuru and Bovis are among 12 city officials, contractors and others facing charges in the probe. Prosecutors have also charged three Recology subsidiaries for funneling hundreds of thousands to Nuru—who helped set the rates the firm charged residents for garbage collection—through nonprofit organizations.

Others implicated in the scandal, including former Department of Building Inspection Director Tom Hui and ex-City Administrator Naomi Kelly, have resigned but have not been charged.