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Ex-San Francisco building inspection employee pleads guilty in bribery case

An inset photo of a Rudy Padaright, on top of the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse.
Former San Francisco Department of Building plan checker Rudy Pada pleaded guilty Friday. | Source: The Standard

A former longtime San Francisco city building inspection employee accused of taking bribes in exchange for approving building plans has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors to resolve his case.

Rudy Pada, 68, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud after becoming one of the newest defendants charged in a sprawling corruption scandal last month, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

His attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Pada, who worked for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection from 1984 until late 2017, allegedly took cash, meals and drinks from three construction executives who wanted him to approve their projects in his role as a plan checker, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in charging documents.

The executives, Sia Tahbazof, Bahman Ghassemzadeh and Reza Khoshnevisan from the design firm SIA Consulting, are also facing charges over the payments as well as in connection with an alleged scheme to bribe Cyril Yu, another former employee at the Department of Building Inspection.

Besides Pada, the other defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Two men walk into the federal building.
Bahman Ghassemzadeh, left, Sia Tahbazof, right, are facing charges over bribes they allegedly paid to employees at the Department of Building Inspection. | Source: Jungho Kim for The Standard

Pada allegedly began accepting the bribes as far back as 2003 and continued to do so through the time he left the department in 2017.

He was also accused of accepting an $85,000 interest-free loan from Tahbazof in 2013. Prosecutors said Pada and Tahbazof concealed the loan by having it provided by a relative of Tahbazof’s. Property records show Pada received an $85,000 loan from Freydoon Ghassemzadeh, Tahbazof’s brother-in-law, in the same time frame described by prosecutors.

While Pada paid back the loan, city officials wouldn’t have let him issue permits or approve plans for the executives if they had known about the loan or the other payments, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Patrick Hannan, a spokesperson for the Department of Building Inspection, said he was glad to see the case moving forward quickly "so that justice will not be further delayed."

"For the past three years, we’ve supported and assisted all efforts to hold accountable those who have violated the public trust," Hannan said.

Pada is due back in court March 29 for sentencing.

Jonah Owen Lamb contributed to this report.

Michael Barba can be reached at mbarba@sfstandard.com