A long list of supporters, including former mayors Willie Brown and Art Agnos, have voiced their support for a lenient sentence for politically connected real estate mogul Victor Makras, who was found guilty on federal charges earlier this year.
Makras was convicted in U.S. District Court earlier this year for bank fraud. The case was linked to a federal corruption probe involving Harlan Kelly, former head of the San Francisco Public Utility Commission, and Mohammed Nuru, the city’s former head of Public Works. The latter was sentenced to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to fraud in January.
Makras’ conviction proved that he made false statements to help Kelly get a loan.
Makras and his wife, Farah, maintain social ties to a number of city politicos and other prominent names, some of whom were among the 190 people who wrote to the judge ahead of his sentencing.
That included the two mayors and other politically connected players who urged the judge to give Makras a light sentence, according to court documents filed Nov. 30.
Mayor London Breed, who is close with Makras, did not write on his behalf.
But former Mayor Brown did. In Brown’s letter to U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg, he noted that Makras is the executor of his will and an investment partner, and played key roles in helping him get elected to city and state offices.
“I frankly have never met anybody in my 88 years of life and 60 plus years of public political participation as trustworthy as Victor Makras. And I must say Judge, I don't know anybody of all the thousand people that I have interacted with that would have any other opinion about Victor Makras,” wrote Brown on Nov. 9.
Brown noted, too, that Makras is such a trusted friend that “he has been selected by me to be the executor named in my will and to serve without the need for any security.” Brown added that Makras also manages the finances of all “the members of my family.”
Brown was himself the subject of at least one FBI investigation in 1990 when he worked on land use issues on behalf of a large garbage disposal firm.
Former mayor Agnos wrote that Makras helped him in his mayoral election in the late 1980s and worked on boards and commissions under five subsequent mayors, all of which helped improve the city.
“As I am sure you know from your daily presence and work in San Francisco, we are struggling with challenges wherein there may be some important opportunities for Victor Makras to continue being one of the most honest and creative problem solvers ever to serve five mayors of San Francisco and our great city,” Agnos wrote.
Agnos’ letter did not mention that Makras left the Port Commission under a cloud over conflict-of-interest issues related to a development he had a stake in.
Neither Makras nor his attorney responded to a call for comment.
Makras’ many other supporters included Greek immigrants and San Francicans of Greek heritage, lawyers, a police officer, realtors and business people from across the Bay Area. Elections attorney Peter Bagatelos and advertising executive John Gumas were among those who wrote on his behalf.
“Victor has always maintained his high moral and ethical standards. Victor is not a person to lower his standards to a level that would be considered corrupt or malicious,” Bagatelos wrote in his letter of support.
Many supporters noted Makras’ moral support, aid to local Greek Orthodox church life and business advice.
“I have felt many times that he has helped me as a brother would. My family immigrated to the United States in 1963, and Victor is one of the people who helped us to achieve the American Dream,” wrote Dennis Vozaitis of Sonoma.
Makras runs Makras Real Estate and Makras Investors. His companies sell real estate and manage numerous properties in San Francisco. A longtime local real estate player, Makras was elected to lead the San Francisco Association of Realtors in 1989.
He has also held positions on the San Francisco Port Commission, the police commission, the PUC board and the city’s retirement board, among others.
Victor and Farah Makras are close with Mayor Breed. For instance, the pair hosted fundraisers for Breed at their Marina District home. Farah Makras’ Instagram includes a photo of Breed blowing out candles on her birthday cake at a dinner with Willie Brown and the Makrases.
Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at [email protected]