Mohammed Nuru
former Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

Mohammed Nuru faces 25 years for alleged corruption and allegedly lying to FBI about disclosing ongoing investigation after agreeing to cooperate; restaurateur Nick Bovis faces 20 years.

Original story at bottom

In announcing fraud charges against Public Works director Mohammed Nuru and Lefty O’Doul’s owner Nick Bovis, U.S. Attorney David Anderson alleged “corruption is pouring into San Francisco from around the world.”

The 75-page complaint, unsealed today, alleges “corruption, bribery, and side deals by one of San Francisco’s highest-ranking public employees. San Francisco has been betrayed as alleged in the complaint.”

Nuru is facing 20 years incarceration on corruption charges. He is facing an additional five years because, after being initially arrested on Jan. 21, he purportedly agreed to cooperate in an ongoing FBI investigation and keep the existence of the investigation secret. Yesterday, he was re-arrested after allegedly breaking this promise to keep quiet, and lying about doing so to the FBI.

The alleged actions took place in 2018 and 2019 and were documented during a long-running and broad investigation involving undercover agents, informants, and extensive wire-taps. Other figures Bovis or Nuru interacted with are described obliquely in the complaint. Anderson said he’s certain individuals will recognize themselves and encouraged them to come forward.

“They have an opportunity to do the right thing — for San Francisco and all of us,” he said. “If they are inclined to do the right thing, they should … run to the FBI offices and disclose what they know. Or we’ll do it the other way.”

Bovis, Nuru’s partner in several of “five schemes” outlined today, is facing 20 years in prison. Both are free on $2 million bonds and will next appear in court on Feb. 6.

Anderson and FBI special agent in charge Jack Bennett outlined “five schemes.” The charges stem from the first and the four others are “charged to show state of mind.”

They are: 1. The Airport Scheme; 2. The Multimillion-Dollar Mixed-Use Development Scheme; 3. The Transbay Transit Center Scheme; 4. The Bathroom Trailer and Homeless Shelter Scheme; 5. The Vacation Home Scheme.

The Airport Scheme: Bovis and Nuru are accused of attempting in early 2018 to win a bid for a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport by “bribing and/or paying a kickback to” a member of the Airport Commission. While the commissioner is not named, she is referred to as “her” in a Nuru quote — and there are only two female Airport Commissioners, both Willie Brown appointees.

Bovis purportedly told a confidential source during a recorded call that Nuru instructed him to give “AIRPORT COMMISSIONER 1” an envelope with $5,000 cash and free travel. Bovis allegedly displayed the cash-filled envelope to an undercover operative.

Bovis also purportedly told the operatives that he had failed to land previous airport concessions despite generous donations to Mayor Ed Lee. Bovis’ wife then added that Nuru told Bovis, “What did you go to the mayor for? You should have been talking to me.”

This scheme did not come to fruition, as the commissioner allegedly “did not want the money.” That refusal may have been in reaction to suspicions from Nuru and others that a law-enforcement sting was being precipitated. Bovis, however, still told an undercover operative he still hoped to move his plan forward via kickbacks gleaned from his licensing fee. Nuru purportedly met in City Hall with the same undercover operatives and offered his help in securing  future airport concessions and a lease at the Transbay Transit Center.

The Multi-million Dollar Mixed-Use Development Scheme: Nuru is accused of using his influence to assist a billionaire Chinese developer working on a mixed-use San Francisco project. “DEVELOPER 1” allegedly provided Nuru with travel, lodging, and “hi-end liquor,” including a $2,070 bottle of wine that Nuru did not report receiving on his statement of economic interest. “We don’t pay any hotel or anything. They take care of us,” Nuru allegedly said on a recording. “He makes all the arrangements for us. Which is good.” Nuru allegedly boasted on a phone call to his girlfriend (GIRLFRIEND 1) that a man who owned 105 five-star hotels in China put him up in a seven-star hotel.

Nuru purportedly texted the developer in November 2018 that he and his daughter had a fine time on their Chinese vacation and “I will do my very best to see your project gets completed.”

U.S. Attorney David Anderson addresses the media regarding charges filed against Mohammed Nuru and Nick Bovis. He is flanked by U.S. Attorneys to his right, and FBI agents to his left. To Anderson’s immediate left is FBI Special Agent In Charge Jack Bennett.

Transbay Transit Center Scheme: Nuru, in addition to serving as head of Public Works, is also the head of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority board. He is accused of attempting to steer leases to Bovis, for some manner of compensation. He purportedly also shared confidential information with undercover operatives posing as people interested in obtaining a lease, during the aforementioned February 2019 City Hall meeting.

Bathroom Trailer Scheme and Homeless Container Shelter Scheme: Nuru is charged with pushing contracts for bathroom trailers to Bovis, and, in essence, bid-rigging to assist Bovis on these bathroom and shelter projects. Bovis purportedly indicated to “business partners” that the competitive bidding process was “just a formality.”

Vacation Home Scheme: Nuru owns a weekend home in Colusa County. Contractors, some allegedly who had government business in San Francisco, have been sending “teams” on the three-and-a-half hour drive to do work on Nuru’s house.

“CONTRACTOR 1 is the CEO and Vice President of a company that has received numerous contracts with the City and County of San Francisco including a contract with DPW in excess of $2 million in 2018,” reads the complaint. “CONTRACTOR 1 appears to have received behind-the-scenes support from Nuru to resolve issues with a large-scale project to replace sidewalks in San Francisco.”

“Intercepted communications” indicate “these contractors are working on Nuru’s vacation home for free or at a subsidized rate.”

Nuru was also allegedly gifted a John Deere tractor.

Original story, 9:26 a.m.:

Mohammed Nuru, director of San Francisco Public Works, arrested by FBI

Multiple sources have confirmed to Mission Local that Mohammed Nuru, the director of San Francisco Public Works and a key behind-the-scenes player for the past four mayoral administrations, was on Monday arrested by the FBI.

The charges against the public official who goes by “Mr. Clean” are not known at this time, but Mission Local was informed allegations of “fraud” are involved. Sources say Nuru is accused of receiving kickbacks for directing discretionary contracts to preferred vendors.

A press conference will be held today at 1:30 p.m., helmed by the local US Attorney and FBI Special Agent in Charge.

San Francisco jail records indicate Nuru as well as Lefty O’Doul’s owner Nick Bovis were yesterday booked on “felony safekeep” charges, indicating a pending federal case.

Nuru is a man with a scandal-marred past — who also made himself indispensable to city leaders. Neighborhood power brokers, city supervisors, and other members of the “City Family” could dial him at any time about piles of unsightly filth or rubbish in their districts and — poof — they would be removed. Mission Local this month reported that Public Works cleaning crews show up ahead of time to spots on the mayor’s daily itinerary, and power-wash them before she arrives. We are told that Nuru, an able behind-the-scenes politician, did not need to be asked to do this.

His appointment to head Public Works by Mayor Ed Lee in 2011 was controversial, as he was already infamous in political circles.

“Mohammed Nuru doesn’t belong in charge of a City department with a $129 million annual budget,” City Attorney and then-mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera said in 2011 statement. “For ten years, Nuru’s questionable ethics and repeated misappropriation of taxpayer dollars didn’t seem to merit a slap on the wrist from Ed Lee. Now, as Mayor, Ed Lee thinks it merits a promotion. For a $200,000-plus salary, taxpayers have a right to expect professionalism. Instead, they’re getting cronyism, politics and poor judgment. San Franciscans deserve better—at DPW, and in Room 200.”

Lee won the mayor’s race and Nuru kept his job (so did Herrera). Public Works’ budget, per the latest city documents, is now $376 million.

Prior to Nuru’s ascension to head of Public Works, he was tarnished by ethical charges regarding misappropriation of public funds for personal uses, retaliatory threats against whisteblowers, and charges of directing city contractors to engage in illegal political activities while on the job.

In 2018, NBC Bay Area reported that some $410,000 had been paid by Public Works to a PR firm that undertook surveys of San Francisco’s disturbing street conditions — and found them near-pristine. That firm, JBR Partners, is operated by James Bryant.

Bryant is also regional director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute. In 2017, former Residential Builders Association chieftain Joe O’Donoghue sued Willie Brown, claiming the former mayor directed $50,000 O’Donoghue gave him toward Mayor London Breed’s re-election to the A. Philip Randolph Institute.

Nuru has become a reviled figure among city homeless activists, who claim his Public Works crews have confiscated tents and possessions from unhoused city residents. During a recent blowup during which residents of the small street Clinton Park unilaterally placed boulders on the sidewalk to deter homeless campers and alleged drug-dealers, Nuru’s crews repeatedly placed the unwarranted rocks back on the sidewalk after they were rolled into the gutters. He later said the solution to the street’s problems would be “larger boulders.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information comes to light.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. Of those who are familiar with this guy, I don’t know how many are surprised that he got arrested, but I think it’s somewhere between zero and zero.

  2. ‘In that same call, BOVIS stated he met with a “famous lawyer,” who “handles all the stuff.”‘

  3. My only concern with the Federal Bust is the fact the current Washington administration has a goal to go after San Francisco. The US attorney is a Trump appointee. I think every action taken by the current US Attorney has as its ultimate goal; embarrass and humiliate San Francisco.

    1. Exactly! I was just thinking “Meanwhile, the president and his thugs are allowed to go on being one of the most corrupt administrations in history with no repercussions.”

    2. If arresting current city officials embarrasses SF votes, well it should! All politics is local, if we have corruption at the bottom what do you expect at the top?

      1. You could also easily say ”if we have corruption at the top, what do you expect at the bottom?” Especially since it is the top, it is upper management that sets the tone, not the bottom.

    3. While I don’t disagree with your assessment of the current administration, Nuru’s nasty and soiled reputation predates the current US Attorney by more than a decade. While the FBI’s charges are relatively recent Nuru’s crooked behavior has always been an open secret. The embarrassment and humiliation are his to own. Looks like the pigeons have come home to roost, IMHO.

    4. If I lived in a town covered in needles and poop I’d welcome any opportunity to ’embarrass’ the voters. It isn’t like cleaning up SF is winning Trump any points anyway. Likewise, if Drumpf is up to no good then he should be prosecuted to fullest extent possible.

  4. BTW, apart from another insightful & well-researched story,
    Joe E. got this updated info. out to the public before
    anything showed up on the websites of the SF Ex, SF Chron, and/ or SF Gate.
    THAT is another great accomplishment

      1. I dunno,

        But you got me thinking.

        What’re the statutes on the charges?

        He’d get the least I’m guessing.

        Certainly not the 20 years the tree killers are publishing.

        Given his years in the game, he could be the SF Left’s John Bolton?

        Go Niners!


  5. Campers,

    Muhammed was hired by Willie Brown to hire a bunch of ex-cons
    and give them a chance to return to City society.

    They were dubbed the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners.

    Once we realized what they were about they were quickly renamed, “Slug Thugs”.

    They tore down any sign advertising any candidate or issue Willie hated.

    I watchem scouring neighborhoods in City trucks tearing down Matt Gonzalez signs.

    They arrived in City vans to bully Gonzo’s supporters in the streets around events.

    The outcry got loud enuff for Newsom to disband them.

    And, install Nuru as the new #2 at Public Works.

    Then, they brought in his thugs and gave a new Civil Service exam for laborers.

    Changed the weight on grading to favor personal interview with Nuru to be
    the deciding factor.

    Lots of veterans in the department lost their jobs.

    Oh, there’s lots more on this guy.

    Go Niners!


    1. Surely the Feds will transfer this case to Boudin. Look, we’ve got a first time, nonviolent offender who is also a parent. Appropriate treatment is a diversion program and help getting services to aid in rehabilitation.

      1. Once I got a bagel and there wasn’t enough cream cheese on it. Thanks Boudin!

        (Is there any topic you can’t link the new DA to?)

  6. A good story. Especially for those who want to know why SF streets are so trash-filled. I wake up every morning to a pile of rubbish across the street. I call 311, and in three days, with trash accumulating by the hour, DPW appears. This has been going on for over 40 years, ever since the City busted the street sweepers who were earning a princely sum of $19/hour. True, $19 was worth more then than now, but the action taken by the city wasn’t about money so much as it was replacing unionized labor with contract labor. Sound familiar?

  7. Hopefully this dude rats out Breed and Brown, probably not but a man can always dream right? God this city is so corrupt and it influences the whole state party. Imagine if we were able to use the insane amount of wealth this city generates and NOT use it to line the pockets of shitty bar owners.

  8. Amazing. Nick Bovis the owner of Lefty O’doul’s got pinched by the FBI as well reportedly.

    This will require literally all of the popcorn.

  9. Willie and London need to be asked about this during their tree planting in Golden Gate Park this afternoon.

    I have some untraceable gift cards that can be used for Muni fare if you need.