The U.S. Department of Justice today announced bribery charges against former Department of Building Inspection employees Cyril Yu and Rodolfo “Rudy” Pada. Both worked in plan-checking for DBI, and are accused of taking bribes in exchange for “expediting and approving building and construction plan permits.”
Pada, who worked at DBI from 1984 to 2017, is additionally accused of concealing “an interest-free $85,000 loan facilitated by a construction planning and design firm executive.” In 2021, Mission Local reported on Pada receiving an undisclosed loan from Freydoon Ghassemzadeh of SIA Consulting.
A 2021 controller’s report noted that “a former DBI employee who has not been named publicly … owed Mr. Ghassemzadeh a significant amount of money when this employee was still employed by the department, and was reviewing plans submitted to obtain permits for work at properties Mr. Ghassemzadeh owned.”
Mission Local confirmed that employee was Pada, and unearthed the publicly available records regarding the loan for a Sunset District home owned by Pada (today’s filings state Pada, 68, resides in Millbrae).
Yu was also deeply tied into controversial DBI projects that have landed others guilty pleas and prison sentences, for bribery and more.
In March 2020, Mission Local reported that since-ousted DBI boss Tom Hui “literally stood over people’s shoulders” to push out the troubled 555 Fulton project. FBI officials later marched into DBI headquarters to seize records relating to this project. The Chinese billionaire whose company was building the star-crossed 555 Fulton development, Zhang Li, has since pleaded guilty to bribing ex-Public Works head Mohammed Nuru — whose arrest in 2020 was the first domino in the feds’ ongoing San Francisco corruption probe.
In the 2021 report, the controller noted that the approval process for the shoring plan at 555 Fulton was “unusually quick,” clocking in at “less than a day.” As Mission Local noted at the time: Glancing at the files for that project, former Building Department plans engineer Cyril Yu started and finished that review on April 30, 2014.
Rodolfo “Rudy” Pada
While Pada’s time at DBI stretches back to the Reagan administration, today’s charging document accuses him of a bribery scheme running from 2003 until he left city employment in 2017.
It involves “Co-conspirator #1,” who “ran a San Francisco-based construction and building planning and design firm that drafted construction plans, advised on construction projects, and helped clients obtain approvals and permits for construction projects.”
Co-conspirator #1 “also owned and managed a construction company, that oversaw construction of residential and commercial buildings in the San Francisco bay area.” Two other co-conspirators work with No. 1
The setup was not complicated: Pada was allegedly plied with meals, drinks, bribes and kickbacks, and the co-conspirators’ plans and permits were expedited through the notoriously slow and problematic gauntlet of the DBI approval process.
Today’s federal document notes that Pada received the $85,000 loan in December 2013 from Co-conspirator #1. The document obtained by Mission Local indicates Pada received a loan from Freydoon Ghassemzadeh on Dec. 6, 2013.
Ghassemzadeh, however, does not appear to be Co-conspirator #1. Complicating matters, today’s DOJ charging document notes that “PADA and Co-conspirator #1 concealed the loan by having the funds provided by Individual #1, a relative of Co-conspirator #1. As part of this loan process, PADA signed and had notarized an Installment Note falsely stating that PADA would pay a 6% annual interest rate on the loan.”
Pada’s accused bribery misdeeds closely match those for which former senior building inspector Bernie Curran has already been found guilty and sentenced to prison. Curran was found to have provided false documents stating he received a 6 percent loan from Freydoon Ghassemzadeh. In fact, authorities later found, he received that money from a relative of Ghassemzadeh’s and veiled its origin through a “tortured chain” of transactions.
The true source of the “loan” to both Curran and Pada was never overtly named by the feds. But, connecting breadcrumbs they conspicuously left throughout their filings, a number of signs point toward Ghassemzadeh’s relative, Sia Tahbazof, who runs a property management company and founded design and engineering firm SIA Consulting.
If so, that would mean the “Developer-1” in Curran’s case is also “Co-Conspirator #1” in Pada’s.
Yu worked at DBI from 2014 until 2021 and, per the feds, enjoyed a similar relationship with Co-Conspirators Nos. 1 through 3. Today’s charging document accuses him of bribery and taking kickbacks, meals and drinks from 2017 or 2018 until his departure from the department.
“As part of the scheme, Co-conspirator #3 would pay YU between $1,200 and $1,700 in cash for helping approve building plans for Co-conspirator #3’s company,” reads today’s document. “Co-conspirator #3 would pay YU in cash, typically during drives to lunch together.”