SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco’s Director of Public Works and the owner of a popular Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant were arrested Monday on allegations of public corruption related to the bribery of a San Francisco airport commissioner.
Both men, Mohammed Colin Nuru and Nick James Bovis, were charged with honest services wire fraud.
The pair is alleged to have bribed the airport commissioner in exchange for help in securing Bovis’ bid for an airport restaurant lease.
Bovis, 56, is the owner of San Francisco sports bar Lefty O’Douls.
Nuru was appointed as director of San Francisco Public Works in 2012. He manages the city’s $312 million public works budget and is also tasked with cleaning of San Francisco’s streets.
“The complaint describes a web of corruption involving bribery, kickbacks, and side deals by one of San Francisco’s highest-ranking city employees,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson. “The public is entitled to honest work from public officials, free from manipulation for the official’s own personal benefit and profit.”
Court documents allege the suspects bribed the commissioner in order to also secure votes of other airport commissioners, ensuring the restaurant lease bid would go to Bovis.
Nuru also serves as the chair of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board.
The suspects’ charges stem from a series of five schemes, which include the airport bribery allegations.
According to the criminal complaint, Nuru used his public works position to influence contracts and construction projects managed by the San Francisco Department of Public Works.
Court documents allege Nuru, as director, he tried to influence city agencies and officials.
He allegedly offered gifts and benefits — like cost-free and subsidized travel to China and South America — in exchange for his influence.
“Government employees are entrusted and expected to protect the best interests of the American public with integrity. When that trust is betrayed, the security and stability of our government is put at risk,” said FBI Special Agent John F. Bennett. “The FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable any public official who utilizes their position for personal gain.”
Nuru and Bovis, together, bribed an unnamed airport commissioner to help secure a lease for a restaurant at the San Francisco International Airport — a process that’s supposed to be a “competitive bidding process,” the criminal complaint alleges.
Nuru allegedly helped the unnamed commissioner obtain the position on the airport commission.
At the direction of Nuru, Bovis allegedly gave Nuru $5,000 for the airport commissioner in addition to a free trip in exchange for help in getting the restaurant lease
The allegations were corroborated on a recorded phone call on March. 21, 2018 between Bovis and a confidential source.
The $5,000 and free trip was to secure the commissioner’s vote for the airport lease, federal officials say.
The allegations were also backed up during a meeting between Bovis, an undercover employee and two confidential sources at his Burlingame restaurant on April 4, 2018. During that meeting Bovis allegedly showed the undercover employee an envelope with cash.
Later on April 4, Bovis, Nuru, the undercover source and the airport commission met, where the suspects showed up with the cash.
The next day, the commissioner allegedly refused to accept the cash, the court documents allege.
The suspects then later discussed a “kickback payment,” instead of an upfront bribe.
The suspects are also alleged to have offered a donation to a non-profit organization of the commissioner’s choice in exchange for her vote on the airport restaurant bid.
The alleged scheme was never completed because “Bovis and others” became suspicious the undercover employee was working for law enforcement
In February 2019, Nuru then met with the same confidential sources — and offered assistance to secure a concession lease at the airport and a lease at the Transbay Transit Center.
Building Development Scheme
San Francisco Public Works Director Nuru is also alleged to have engaged in bribery over a project with a multi-million-dollar project developer in China.
Nuru allegedly used his position to benefit the developer in exchange for travel, high-end liquor and other gifts.
The arrangement between the developer and Nuru was corroborated by encrypted messages sent on Nov. 4, 2018 — shortly after Nuru’s stay in China at the developer’s expense.
“Thank you very much for all your generosity while we were in China. We had a great vacation and my daughter had a wonderful time. I will do my very best to see that your project gets completed. Look forward to seeing you in San Francisco when come,” Nuru allegedly wrote to the developer.
Transbay Transit Scheme
In addition to public works, Nuru also serves on the Transbay Joint Powers Authority — which oversees contracts and leases at the San Francisco transit center.
Nuru is alleged to have use his power to secure a lease for Bovis “in exchange for benefits provided by Bovis.”
Bathroom Trailer, Homeless Shelter Scheme
As director of San Francisco’s public works, Nuru also has control over contracts for portable bathrooms and portable housing for the city’s homeless.
Court documents allege Nuru helped Bovis in his bids for these projects by sharing information with Bovis.
Bovis reportedly told his business partners that the bidding process was only a “formality.”
Vacation Home Scheme
Nuru owns a vacation home in Stonyford, near the Mendocino National Forest — and is accused of using San Francisco contractors at free and discounted labor costs to remodel and complete construction at his home. This labor occurred while the contractors were engaged in city and county affiliated work in San Francisco.
Court documents alleged, a contractor received support from Nuru on a project to replace sidewalks in San Francisco in exchange for sending workers to Colusa County to work on his vacation home.
The men were arrested Monday and have since been arraigned and released on individual bail of $2 million.
They are expected to return to court Feb. 6.
The charges resulted from an FBI investigation.