Victor Makras with Mayor Ed Lee
Victor Makras, now convicted of bank fraud, was described as 'the man in every room for every mayor.' Here he is with Mayor Ed Lee, not even 72 hours before Lee's December 2017 death.

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. 

Harlan Kelly, right, and Mohammed Nuru in a 2017 tweeted photo by @mrcleansf, Nuru’s account.

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.”  


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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. Someone needs to look into kickbacks paid to London Breed for the ongoing ‘Pandemic dining’ permit scandal whereby restaurants (and worse, BARS) gain nearly-free floorspace and income by usurping parking spots from the local working-class residents. The pandemic is over but the land grab for profit appears to be forever. Give the real taxpayers their parking and sidewalks back. Yes, I know they pay a small permit fee and the cost of the parking meters during business hours (but they deny neighborhood locals the parking spaces 24/7/365). Fishy AF, but I guess that’s how the .gov works in $F.

  2. I hope he sings. And I hope the FBI also takes a long, hard look at the greedy, odious, shady real estate speculators/slumlords and any ties and bribes to City Hall, DBI, Planning, the Rent Board, etc. that enable them to get away with what they’re perpetrating on this city and its long-suffering tenants.

  3. Just another example of a highly visible person (Makras) getting squeezed by the feds for their bigger fish to fry, Nuhru and others. We all know, applying for loans, there is always some form of hocus pocus in providing, or not providing certain info..let’s be realistic ok?! I’d be surprised if the lender Intuit really cared ( or even wanted to participate with the Feds on this case) as long as Harlan made good on the loan…made his payments on time etc. This was a sham case against Makras…plain and simple…

    1. Agreed.
      Most if not all real estate professionals have relationships with “special” appraisers that can fudge property valuations while still maintaining a defensible outcome.
      Fudging mortgage loan apps is as American as apple pie. These days, after the institution of much more sever income requirements after the Bush/Republican financial meltdown, ordinary folks have a very difficult time getting funding. Many were not able to re-fi at the stupid low interest rates despite having never missed a payment at the higher rates.

      On the flip side – have these people never seen Goodfellas?
      You don’t communicate your conspiracies thru mediums that can be eavesdropped on! C’mon now – the most basic rule of thumb is to assume anybody can can have access to your emails and texts and phone conversations. To top it off – better make sure your co-conspirator(s) aren’t wearing a wire. Meet in a swimming pool – naked preferably – with loud music blaring. Crime tip o’ the day.

  4. Watched him years ago on the police commission. Terrible do nothing, take up a seat commissioner. Even then you knew something wasn’t right and then he pops up on many other commissions. Needs a little prison time and financial fines. No more social pages for him, his wife and Mayor Breed.