From page 55 of the federal complaint vs. Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru

Multiple sources have confirmed to Mission Local that, at around mid-day Wednesday, FBI officials dropped in on San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection. 

The feds allegedly entered the Planning Department, which is next door to the Department of Building Inspection headquarters on the 1600 block of Mission, and then migrated to an area where DBI stores servers. 

Mission Local is told that the federal officials were searching for files related to 555 Fulton St. That project is owned by Z&L Properties. Its billionaire co-owner, Zhang Li, purportedly lavished “some stone,” expensive liquor and seven-star accomodations on San Francisco Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru during a Chinese trip, according to the FBI. In exchange, Nuru purportedly pulled strings to help along the project. 

Nuru was last week arrested and charged with fraud related to this and other allegations of public corruption revealed in a long-running FBI probe. He was initially arrested on Jan. 21, but released after promising to cooperate with the probe and keep its existence secret. He allegedly did the opposite, however, and is charged with lying to the FBI about it. He faces up to 25 years in prison. 

Within the 75-page complaint against Nuru and restaurateur Nick Bovis unsealed last week, the disgraced Public Works head is caught on a federal wiretap purportedly going over a litany of issues he’d like to see remedied on the 555 Fulton project. 

Searching on city databases, it seems that there are no records for some of the work at 555 Fulton being described by Nuru in the federal wiretap — and, importantly, that other work appears to have approved “over the counter,” when far more extensive time and scrutiny should have been been applied. 

It is unclear if the feds today were able to locate the files they were purportedly seeking on DBI’s servers. 

Permitting on the 555 Fulton project was handled by deeply connected expediter Walter Wong. Wong’s offices were allegedly last month raided by FBI agents.

Our calls and messages to DBI have not been returned. The FBI refused to comment.

Update, Feb. 6: John Murray, a DBI spokesman, returned our call. He confirmed that visitors from the FBI dropped by the Department of Building Inspection on Wednesday.

“We intend to cooperate with the investigation.”

How many FBI agents dropped by? “No comment.”

How long were they there? “No comment.”

Did they explain what they were looking for? “No comment.”

Do you know if they found what they were after? “No comment.”

Julian Mark contributed reporting.

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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. Keep at the reporting…..I am sure there are several journalists looking into all this corruption.
    Can’t wait to hear more!

  2. Many Years back Mohamed toured my neighborhood that sits in the shadow of SFGH.

    I pointed out the broken sidewalk all around the parking garage as well as the damaged signage on the north side of the hospital on San Burno Ave.

    It took another five years before these problems were dealt with.

    I guess I wasn’t important enough to rate these repairs to be concluded in a timely manner.

  3. Joe,
    It seems to me that to some degree, this vindicates Planning Commissioner Dennis Richard’s accusations of corruption and retaliation in DBI.

    Do you understand the official relationship is between SF Public Works and DBI? What authority does Mohammed Nuru over DBI and do staffers routinely move between SFPW and DBI?

    Also, today’s Examiner describes how City contractor “behest payments” to elected officials are actually allowed and regulated. And for much larger amounts than nominal. That’s simply institutional legitimization of bribery and corruption. With that in mind, why should residents think a larger role for SF public involvement in housing, electricity, internet, and banking would be done honestly?

    1. Former Ethics Commissioners Peter Keane, Quentin Kopp and Paul Renne tried to move a Friends of Ethics sponsored measure to ban behested payments.

      The usual city funded nonprofity suspects, Council of Community Housing Organizations and the Human Services Network, conspired to put the kibosh on the measure after years of work at the last minute.

      Hopefully this glaring example of how behested corrupt government by creating secret side deals to the public process will tip the scales to end this travesty.

  4. Thank you for doing real journalism. The bay rea needs so much more of it! Government and law enforcement is corrupted top to bottom by old boys’ networks/freemasons. Our whole state need an iron broom to clean out the cancer.

  5. Ironically, 555 Fulton was once the site of Christopher Dairy — which belonged to George Christopher, who was possibly SF’s last honest mayor…

    1. When tenure at our previous warehouse in the Mission appeared falsely to be in jeopardy, I briefly looked into buying a loft in the 555 Fulton building. I think they wanted $335K or so for 3k ft/2. That would have ended up as a fancy buy out.