A San Francisco official responsible for managing a community grant program pleaded not guilty to charges related to an alleged bribery scheme that involved funneling city contracts to a former official.
Lanita Henriquez, the director of San Francisco’s Community Challenge Grant Program, was arrested along with Dwayne Jones, a former official and president of RDJ Enterprises who allegedly paid her for the contracts, earlier this week. Jones has yet to enter a plea.
In court Thursday, Henriquez, who was arrested and released earlier this week, appeared beside her provisional attorney, Deputy Public Defender Carmen Aguirre, before Judge Victor Hwang.
Henriquez pleaded not guilty and contested the allegations made against her.
She will return to court on Sept. 18 to set a date for the preliminary hearing. She declined to comment after the hearing.
Henriquez has been charged with one count of misappropriation of public money, six counts of bribery and 23 counts of aiding and abetting a financial conflict of interest in a government contract.
The charges stem from an investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and the FBI, which allege that Jones abetted Henriquez in a kickback scheme.
From 2016 to 2020, the pair allegedly “appropriated public money” for themselves and others. During that period, Henriquez created 23 contracts between the city and entities controlled by Jones in which she had financial interests. Those contracts amounted to $1.4 million in all.
Henriquez was allegedly paid $32,942 from entities controlled by Jones. In total, Henriquez, her family and associates were allegedly paid roughly $190,000 by Jones-controlled entities.
As head of the community challenge grant program, Henriquez helped issue grants for “community groups to make physical improvements to their neighborhoods,” according to the city’s website.
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