San Francisco city official accused of money laundering removed from job duties

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A San Francisco city official accused of laundering money for former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru was removed from her job duties Wednesday by Mayor London Breed, according to a mayoral spokesman. 

Sandra Zuniga, 44, of South San Francisco, formerly directed the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services and the city’s Fix-It Program for safe and clean streets. She is charged in a June 3 federal criminal complaint that was unsealed Monday with one count of conspiring to launder money allegedly illegally gained by Nuru.   

Zuniga made an initial appearance by telephone before U.S. Magistrate Laurel Beeler in San Francisco on Wednesday and was allowed to remain free on an unsecured $250,000 bond.  

Also on Wednesday, mayoral spokesman Andy Lynch said, “Today, the Mayor’s Office terminated her from her duties” in the two positions. 

Lynch added, “We understand Public Works is also in the process of removing her from her civil service position in accordance with the rules and union protections which govern her employment.” 

Zuniga has been on paid leave since Feb. 12, he said. 

Zuniga, described in the criminal complaint as Nuru’s romantic partner since 2009, is accused of conspiring with Nuru and others between March 2014 and January 2020 to launder money he allegedly received from people seeking city contracts or approvals. 

The complaint alleges that during that time, Zuniga deposited $135,000 in cash in her personal bank account. She allegedly wrote checks for $39,000 in mortgage payments for a Colusa County property owned by Nuru; for $10,791 in payments to construction companies working on a vacation house on that property; and for $6,800 to Nuru. 

FBI agent Tyler Nave alleged in an affidavit filed with the complaint, “Probable cause exists that Zuniga knew that the source of the funds she was transacting were the proceeds of illegal activity.” 

Nuru’s vacation property is near another property jointly owned by Nuru and Zuniga, according to the complaint. 

Nuru, who resigned his post in February, was charged in January with one count of honest services wire fraud and one count of lying to the FBI.

The purported fraud allegedly stemmed from an unsuccessful scheme to bribe a San Francisco International Airport commissioner to aid restaurateur Nick Bovis in obtaining an eatery concession in 2018. 

The money laundering conspiracy charge lodged against Zuniga carries a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison if she is convicted. 

Beeler on Wednesday scheduled Zuniga’s next hearing for July 16.  

After defense attorney Galia Amram said, “I expect that she will lose her job,” Beeler said she may consider reducing Zuniga’s $250,000 unsecured bond if Zuniga’s financial situation has changed.  

Amram could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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