Real-estate maven Victor Makras, a man described as “tied into the inner sanctums of San Francisco politics,” was found guilty today of bank fraud and making false statements to a bank.
These charges carry potential prison terms of 30 and 20 years, respectively, though it is unlikely Makras, with no criminal history, would face maximum exposure.
Today’s ruling follows Makras’ October, 2021, indictment for working with ousted Public Utilities Commission general manager Harlan Kelly to defraud Quicken Loans of $1.3 million. That scheme involved a home owned by Kelly and his wife, Naomi Kelly, San Francisco’s former city administrator.
The feds successfully argued that Makras guided Harlan Kelly in this scheme, which overstated the amount of money the Kellys actually owed to Makras Investors for the house. At the same time, he concealed large amounts of debt the Kellys owed to others.
By being able to borrow more money, the Kellys received a more favorable interest rate. Makras and Kelly then funneled that money, obtained under the guise of a home refinance, into covering other debts, including a $90,000 construction tab for contractor and permit expediter Walter Wong, and $70,000 in credit card debt for the Kellys.
Makras also benefited: His firm’s $715,000 loan to the Kellys was paid off, and so was his $70,000 personal loan to the couple.
Emails and texts between Makras and Kelly were intercepted by the feds, and reprinted in the charging documents. In one communique, Makras offered to directly pay the Kellys’ credit card bills.
“This will avoid a large check going into your account,” Makras texted Harlan Kelly. “Banks do not like seeing anything unusual about the flow of cash in and out of checking savings accounts. This will make the loan process go easy.”
Kelly concurred. “I agree, and just emailed you our credit card statements.”
Harlan Kelly is still on the hook for the bank fraud charges Makras was convicted of today. Kelly is also facing federal bribery charges stemming from an alleged “long-running bribery scheme and corrupt partnership” with Wong.
Makras is a veteran San Francisco real estate broker who has sat on a smörgåsbord of city commissions, including the Port Commission, Retirement Board, Board of Appeals, Police Commission and PUC. Unlike the oft-dodgy contractors and fixers swept up in the feds’ long-running corruption probe, Makras is a wealthy real-estate broker and fixture in the society pages, with deep ties to this city’s power players. He sold many of them their homes.
“He’s the guy in every room for every mayor,” one longstanding city politico told us. Added another: “Victor is tied into the inner sanctums of San Francisco politics. Much like ‘Chinatown’ was about water, in San Francisco it’s about real estate.”
After several days of deliberations, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on two conspiracy counts. It is unclear if the feds will re-try those.
Makras’ guilty verdicts come one day after ex-Public Works boss Mohammed Nuru was sentenced to seven years in prison. Nuru’s January, 2020, arrest sparked the ongoing federal scrutiny of San Francisco that caught up to Kelly and Makras, among others.
Nuru did great damage to the feds’ investigation by tipping off “witnesses” and “targets” for 11 days after agreeing with the feds to cooperate and keep the process secret. Far from cooperating, U.S. Attorneys at his Thursday sentencing argued that he did the opposite.
It is unclear what Makras’ next steps will be. Though he may opt to do what Nuru did not: Cooperate. A government source notes that the connected politico may yet opt to aid the feds with their ongoing probe of San Francisco: “It’s never too late.”