Skip to main content

Wife of convicted San Francisco builder now also on ‘troubled contractor’ list

Permit expediter Rodrigo Santos was convicted in a scheme to benefit his clients. Now, his wife has been flagged by the city for faulty projects.

A man walks with two woman on the street.
Rodrigo Santos walks out of the court at the Phillip Burton Federal Building after his sentencing in San Francisco on Aug. 25, 2023. | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

When San Francisco’s building department created a system to flag troubled contractors, the inspiration was Rodrigo Santos, the now-convicted former city permit expediter and engineer who was involved in a scheme that benefited inspectors in exchange for special treatment on his projects. 

Until recently, his was the only name on the Department of Building Inspections’ list of bad contractors. Now, that list also includes his wife, Virginia “Ginny" Santos

According to a newly released Expanded Compliance Control List, Ginny Santos was involved in three projects over an 18-month period in which the builder misrepresented the nature of the projects, demolished structures and built whole additions without permits. 

“The violations are for extensive work conducted without a valid permit and raise serious concerns about compliance with building codes and their potential impact on public health and safety,” the building department said in a statement.

Ginny Santos was the listed agent on three projects flagged by the city from 2022 to 2023, according to the new report. An agent is essentially the manager of the project, responsible for correctly filing and updating permits with the building department and coordinating with city officials. 

In August 2022, a project she was managing at 229 Whitney St., near Glen Park, had an entire foundation replaced without a permit, and the demolition and construction went beyond the scope of the permits issued.

That same month, on a project in Potrero Hill at 2523 26th St., a two-story addition with new bathrooms and a remodeled kitchen was constructed without permits, according to the compliance report.

"In your haste or lack of research, taking out an office assistant may not solve this problem.”

Virginia "Ginny" Santos

In July 2023, Ginny Santos was the listed agent on another project in the Sunset at 1306 45th St., where excavation undermined a neighbor’s foundation, the report said. 

After the department notified her in December 2022 that she might be put on the city's troubled builder list, Ginny Santos rebutted the allegations against her in a letter she sent to the building department, saying she was just “an office assistant providing clerical services for RS Structural Engineering,” her husband’s company. 

She does not have a contractor's license, according to the state.  

In a more recent letter she sent the department, she again claimed innocence.  

“I understand the spirit of this program is to weed out bad actors,” she wrote in a December 2023 letter to the department. “However, in your haste or lack of research, taking out an office assistant may not solve this problem.”

Ginny Santos could not be reached for comment. 

Two men in suits exit a courthouse front door.
Bernie Curran, left, and Rodrigo Santos, right, leave federal court in downtown San Francisco. A federal judge will decide how much Bernie Curran and Rodrigo Santos are required to pay San Francisco for their corruption. | Source: The Standard

City officials, meanwhile, say that she was not only the listed agent on three troubled projects but also listed on incorporation documents of RS Structural Engineering as the company’s secretary. 

The program that flagged Ginny Santos was created in 2021 after San Francisco passed legislation to track and call out significant violations by developers, contractors and engineers who repeatedly break city permitting rules. Those rules are meant to ensure that buildings and those who work on them are safe. 

The law, which directs the city building inspection department to notify state regulators of violations and tasks senior inspectors to review complaints, was a reaction to a corruption scandal that involved a scheme by Rodrigo Santos.

Ginny Santos will be on the city’s bad-contractor list until 2029. As a result, her projects will be closely scrutinized by city officials, according to compliance regulations.

The Santoses are two out of the three builders on the city’s list. The third is Tad Van Nguyen, a contractor with a long list of problematic building projects, who was put on this earlier this year. 

Rodrigo Santos’s track record 

Rodrigo Santos pleaded guilty to federal charges in January 2023 in relation to a scheme he was involved in that helped his clients receive lenient inspections on their projects.

Santos pleaded guilty to bank fraud, wire fraud and tax evasion charges in three separate cases, stemming from checks he misappropriated and the donations he asked his clients to make to a youth sports charity favored by Bernie Curran, who was at the time a senior building inspector.

Rodrigo Santos was sentenced to 2½ years in prison in August after pleading guilty to fraud and tax evasion charges stemming from a stolen check, as well as payments he arranged to influence Curran. 

From 2012 until 2019, Santos told his clients to write checks—often to the Department of Building Inspection—to pay for fees linked to their projects. Those fees were nonexistent. Instead, he deposited $775,000 from roughly 200 clients into his bank account, sometimes altering the “pay to” field to make him the payee instead of the department.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at