Ahead of Mohammed Nuru's sentencing, we're learning more about the scheme -- how much money and how many people were involved.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A massive government corruption scandal in San Francisco takes one more step Thursday with the sentencing of former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. I-Team reporter Dan Noyes has been poring over new federal court filings.
Prosecutors say Nuru's corruption did untold damage to the public's trust in government. We're getting a clear picture of just how the scheme worked -- how much money and how many people were involved. The scandal even reached the mayor's office.
In the new filings in San Francisco Federal Court, prosecutors describe "a tale of greed old as time." Public Works Chief Mohammed Nuru accepting more than $1 million of bribes over 12 years to steer city contracts to his friends. Also charged in the case -- developers, contractors, a restaurant owner, two recology executives, and Nuru's girlfriend, the former director of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services.
Aaron Peskin told the I-Team, "It is embarrassing, it is shameful. And I hope that Mr. Nuru gets the maximum sentence to send a signal that this is not tolerated in San Francisco."
Peskin has served 15 years on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, several as president. He tells me the corruption scandal has had a bigger impact, beyond those criminally charged.
"This has led to the resignation of the head of the Department of Building Inspection, the City Administrator, the head of the Public Utilities Commission, the head of the Department of the Environment. So this was far reaching."
Prosecutors say Nuru's ranch on 20 acres in Colusa County "is truly a monument to his grifting," that it was built and furnished by those vying for city contracts, and that bribes helped pay his mortgage. He also received a $36,000 "Rolex, luxury international vacations, envelopes of cash, and splashy holiday parties for City VIPs."
Tony Brass served as a federal prosecutor in San Francisco. He told us, "One has to ask, how did it even happen? How could you even hope to get away with it? Were the safeguards just so lax three years ago that it allowed this to happen?"
In the sentencing memorandums, the prosecution is asking for a 9-year prison sentence; the defense wants three years saying Nuru is at a heightened risk of COVID because of his diabetes and heart disease.
Brass questions, "Is it really legitimate now to say that the COVID risk is that much worse than prison when we run a COVID risk every day even on the outside? Every time you board Muni, every time you get on BART, you're running a COVID risk. So, I don't know that that argument is going to carry the day."
As for Mayor London Breed, Nuru gave her $5,528 for car repairs and a rental car in 2019. The Ethics Commission ruled that "violated the City's prohibition on accepting gifts from subordinate employees" and fined her 1.5 times the cost of the gift.
On Aug. 3, 2021, Breed admitted, "There were mistakes made, I take responsibility for those mistakes and I've learned a lot since becoming mayor and being in office."
The Mayor's Office confirmed Wednesday that Breed briefly dated Nuru more than 20 years ago and they remained close friends. Some context -- at the time of the gift for the mayor's car repairs, Nuru had a city salary of $278,000, compared to Breed's $342,000.
"There was a city family of you scratch my back, I'll scratch your back. And they treated it like a family. It was all in the family, and our existing mayor was a part of that family," Supervisor Peskin said.
The defense says Nuru expects to have to forfeit that custom-built ranch in Colusa County where he planned to retire and his city pension. He's been receiving more than $7,000 a month, even as this case moves forward.
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