Second public official, 2 others, newly indicted

Another senior San Francisco mayor official is now indicted in the public corruption scandal that has already affected former public works department director Mohammed Nuru this year, federal officials said on Monday.

Sandra Zuniga, director of Fix-It in San Francisco and director of the mayor’s office of neighborhood services, is charged with one count of conspiracy to launder money after prosecutors said she conspired for years with Nuru to launder the proceeds of his alleged honest service wire fraud.

Zuniga is one of three other people named in connection with the case on Monday, months after the explosive arrests in January of Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis. The pair have been charged with attempting to bribe an airport commissioner, as well as a number of bribery schemes involving city resources.

The additional complaints, unsealed on Monday, are the latest to be made public in a growing scandal that includes lavish vacations, hundreds of thousands of dollars in home renovations and freebies including a $ 40,000 Rolex watch. .

US Attorney David L. Anderson on Monday issued a thinly veiled warning to anonymous co-conspirators, vowing that the latest criminal complaints “will not be the last.”

“To all of you who have a piece of this corruption, I urge you once again to help get it right for San Francisco,” Anderson said in a statement. “Run, don’t walk to the FBI, until it’s too late to cooperate.”

San Francisco supervisor Matt Haney said it was “infuriating” how the defendants in the case were spending their time, rather than cleaning up the dirty streets and sidewalks of San Francisco.

“There is a culture of corruption within this administration that goes far beyond the simple director Nuru, spanning several departments,” he said. “The San Franciscans deserve a clean, responsible government working in the public interest, and they clearly did not get it.”

Zuniga, 44, is described as Nuru’s longtime girlfriend. FBI officials and federal prosecutors say Zuniga conspired with Nuru for years to launder the proceeds of his alleged honest services wire fraud, and from March 2014 to January 2020, made more than $ 135,000 in deposits in cash, in addition to his San Francisco City paycheck.

Zuniga also deposited more than $ 8,000 in checks from Nuru associates, officials said in a press release.

The complaint alleges that Zuniga also joined Nuru on a two-week trip to South America in the fall of 2018, which included business class flights and a stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Santiago, Chile. The vacations were “all paid for or heavily subsidized by a contractor doing business with the City,” officials said.

Officials filed a lawsuit against Balmore Hernandez, 55, of Burlingame, who was a longtime employee of the San Francisco Department of Public Works. Hernandez, now CEO and vice president of San Francisco-based construction engineering firm Azul Works Inc., is accused of using his relationship with Nuru to gain the city’s favor for his business.

Among the allegations, prosecutors say Hernandez provided more than $ 250,000 in labor and materials to help Nuru build a house on his “ranch” and two adjacent 10-acre plots in Stonyford, Colusa County. ).

Florence Kong, 62, owner of a San Francisco-based construction company of Hillsborough, is the third suspect named by federal officials on Monday and is accused of lying to FBI investigators during the Nuru investigation.

Officials say Kong owns two companies that do business with San Francisco: a construction company called Kwan Wo Ironworks and a construction debris recycling company called SFR Recovery Inc.

In recorded calls, Kong can be heard seeking business for his companies from the city’s public works department, officials said. She is accused of providing Nuru with money, a Rolex watch worth over $ 40,000, and installing a gate for her vacation home.

“Nonetheless,” prosecutors said, “Kong has denied ever discussing matters with Nuru.”

Zuniga is charged with conspiracy to launder money and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Hernandez is accused of bribery and faces up to 10 years in prison, and Kong is accused of misrepresenting and faces up to five years in prison.

Bovis and Nuru were arrested in late January and each charged with one count of wire fraud as part of a federal complaint alleging they were involved in a number of bribery schemes involving city resources.

The complaint alleged that from January 2018, Nuru and Bovis attempted to bribe an airport commissioner in order to win a bid for the right to open a restaurant at San Francisco International Airport.

Nuru and Bovis, according to the January complaint, were plotting to give the anonymous airport commissioner $ 5,000 in cash and free travel in exchange for voting for the restaurant’s lease, authorities said. But the airport commissioner refused to accept the money and the project fell apart, authorities said.

Last month, Bovis agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation and plead guilty to committing honest services wire fraud and wire fraud – crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Haney said the deal is one of the reasons he is proposing a commission to oversee the Department of Public Works and “share its responsibilities.”

“The mayor cannot just replace a few people at the top and expect it to go away,” he said.

Megan Cassidy and Trisha Thadani are the staff writers of San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected], [email protected] Twitter: @meganrcassidy, @trishathadani

Comments are closed.