A San Francisco construction executive pleaded not guilty in federal court Monday to charges that he bribed city building engineers so they would expedite approval of permits for his company.
Reza Khoshnevisan, 54, co-owns SIA Consulting, an architectural design firm that has worked on numerous projects in San Francisco. Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Khoshnevisan with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, a crime connected to bribing public officials.
In court Monday, Khoshnevisan wore a dark suit and tie with a white shirt. He waited for his case to be called with hands together in his lap. After pleading not guilty, he was released on a $25,000 bond.
If convicted, Khoshnevisan could face up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
Khoshnevisan is charged alongside his business partner, Sia Tahbazof, and Tahbazof’s nephew, Bahman Ghassemzadeh. The trio is accused of paying off Rodolfo Pada and Cyril Yu, both former San Francisco building plan engineers who were responsible for reviewing plans submitted to the city’s Department of Building Inspection for code compliance.
From 2012 through 2017, the three businessmen allegedly funneled cash, free meals and drinks to Pada in exchange for greenlit permits, prosecutors say. Their similar conspiracy to bribe Yu allegedly ran from 2017 to 2021.
Tahbazof and Ghassemzadeh also pleaded not guilty last week. Ghassemzadeh was an engineer for SIA Consulting and served on a city board, the San Francisco Board of Examiners—a group of experts that determines if new construction methods or materials comply with safety standards—from 2018 to 2021. He resigned in 2021.
Tahbazof’s son, Yosef Tahbazof, also stepped down from a city board this year under pressure, following reporting by The Standard on the family’s ties to Bernie Curran, a former building inspector who has admitted to accepting illegal payments.
Pada, 68, and Yu, 41, were charged in early November in the alleged scheme. They both pleaded not guilty, though a judge set a court date in early December for Pada to change his plea. It’s unclear whether he will plead guilty.
In addition to the three former Department of Building Inspection employees who’ve faced federal criminal charges, ex-Director Tom Hui resigned in 2020 amid accusations by the city attorney that he doled out preferential treatment. The next year, a San Francisco Controller’s Office report found that Hui accepted inappropriate gifts from developer Zhang Li and permit expediter Walter Wong. Hui has not been charged with a crime.
The SIA Consulting trio is the latest set of business executives to get swept up in a far-reaching federal investigation into San Francisco corruption. Multiple employees of the city’s garbage giant, Recology, pleaded guilty to crimes, and a city-engineer-turned-businessman was sentenced to prison this month for funneling bribes to ex-San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. In all, more than a dozen people have been charged in the probe, and Nuru, who stood at the center of many of the corrupt schemes, is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that no current employees of the Department of Building Inspection have been charged with a crime in this case. It has been amended to clarify that Curran, Pada and Yu no longer work for the department.
Benjamin Fanjoy contributed to this report.
Noah Baustin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org