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FBI Arrests S.F. Official In Alleged Developer, Airport Bribes Case

San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru was charged with fraud Tuesday afternoon by the U.S. attorney's office.

Federal officials allege Nuru, who is also the chair of the Transportation Joint Powers Authority's board of directors, involved himself in an array of bribery and corruption with figures including a billionaire Chinese developer and a local business owner, related to commercial leasing space at the San Francisco International Airport and the Transbay Transit Center.

FBI Arrests S.F. Official In Alleged Developer, Airport Bribes Case

Prosecutors claim Nuru accepted travel, lodging, liquor and other luxury items from an unnamed Chinese billionaire in gifts that should have been disclosed but were concealed. Nuru allegedly manipulated San Francisco's building permit and inspection process for that developer, federal officials claim.

Separately, Nuru and Nick Bovis, who owns San Francisco bar Lefty O'Doul's, are alleged to have attempted an unconsummated $5K bribe to an SFO commission member to affect its leasing decisions regarding restaurant space in the airport, and to have attempted a similar act for space in San Francisco's new Transbay Transit Center.

Nuru, feds claim, also provided Bovis with inside information on Public Works Department plans for homeless shelters and public restrooms.

Nuru and Bovis were booked into county jail on Monday over suspicions of "public trust fraud" in the department's awarding of city contracts, but have since been released.

Beyond the allegations of fraud related to activities allegedly occurring in 2018 and 2019, Nuru has also been charged with lying to the FBI. Nuru was first arrested on Jan. 21 and told not to obstruct the investigation but allegedly told people about it and lied to the FBI about having done so. 

Allegations against Nuru, who has led the Public Works Department since 2012, also include him receiving free and discounted construction work on his Colusa County, California, vacation home from Public Works Department contractors, as well as a John Deere tractor. 

"In sum: The complaint alleges corruption pouring into San Francisco from around the world," U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson said. "The complaint alleges corruption, bribery, side deals by one of San Francisco's highest-ranking public employees.

"Federal law gives the citizens of San Francisco a right to honest services from their public officials," he said. "San Francisco has been betrayed as alleged in the complaint."

Nuru faces up to 25 years in prison, while Bovis faces up to 20 years, Anderson said on Tuesday.

Neither Nuru nor Bovis could be reached for comment.

UPDATE, JAN. 28, 3 P.M. PT: The story has been updated with further information on the allegations following a U.S. attorney's office press conference.