The former San Francisco public works manager, who pleaded guilty to directing public procurement and receiving expensive gifts, was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison in a corruption case that trapped several officials and insiders. of the town hall.
Mohammed Nuru pleaded guilty in January to what federal prosecutors described as “an incredible amount of public corruption” during his time at the helm of the city’s Public Works Department. Federal prosecutors said that over a 12-year period, Nuru accepted more than $ 1 million in cash, international travel, jewelry, restaurant meals, and other goods and services from city contractors and developers in exchange for preferential treatment. and confidential information on city affairs.
“This is a story of greed as old as time,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing demanding that Nuru, whom they described as the “ultimate con man”, serves at least nine years in prison, three years of freedom. supervised on his release and pay a $ 35,000 fine to dissuade other officials from doing the same. Nuru’s lawyers had asked for a three-year sentence, which Judge William Orrick said did not “come close to recognizing the gravity of this case.”
Orrick agrees with prosecutors saying it is important that the ruling “make it clear that public corruption cannot be tolerated in a democratic society. When it is discovered, it should have a high cost to its practitioners ”.
Orrick said he considered the good things Nuru did in life when he handed down his seven-year sentence in a packed classroom. He also sentenced Nuru to three years of probation and ordered him to pay a $ 35,000 fine.
Authorities said much of the bribe money paid to Nuru went to finance his ranch in Colusa County, where he intended to retire. As part of a plea deal, Nuru lost the ranch that federal prosecutors called “a monument to his scam.”
The mortgage on the sprawling property “was paid in part by bribes recycled by city contractors, with a large custom-built house furnished by city contractors, on land maintained with the help of equipment and land provided by city contractors. “Federal prosecutors said.
In exchange for his guilty plea on the fraud charge, prosecutors agreed to drop further charges, including lying to the FBI and money laundering.
City Hall’s extensive corruption investigation overthrew prominent leaders, including Harlan Kelly, the former general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, who is accused of receiving thousands of dollars in travel expenses, meals, jewelry and repair of his house.
Mayor London Breed, who attended Nuru more than 20 years ago, has not been charged with any crime, but admitted receiving $ 5,528 from him for car repairs and a rental car in 2019.
More than 100 family members, friends and former colleagues have sent letters of support to Nuru, known as Mr. Clean for his efforts to clean the dirty streets of San Francisco, praising his dedication to his five children, whom he has raised since single father, and his work for San Francisco residents, and describing him as kind and hardworking.
Deputy Director of Public Works Operations DiJaida Durden wrote to the judge asking for clemency for her former boss, explaining that she worked for Nuru for 19 years starting as a cement maker.
“He wanted us to be proud of the way our city looks,” he wrote. “Mr. Clean definitely suited his style of work because he not only encouraged the staff to take care of the city, but he did it himself.”
In a four-page letter to the judge prior to sentencing, Nuru apologized for violating the trust of the people of San Francisco, saying his behavior left him in constant anxiety but still didn’t stop. He pointed out his health problems and asked for leniency and a second chance.
“I accept full responsibility for violating public trust,” he wrote. “I hope and pray that the sentence will allow me to prove later that I have learned my lesson.”
Nuru, 59, was among the first of 12 people and three corporate entities to face federal charges due to the Department of Justice investigation of public corruption in the city and county of San Francisco. After he was arrested in January 2020, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation and not disclose his arrest, but shortly after he told more suspects about the investigation. He then lied to the FBI about him revealing him.
Last year, a recycling plant owner was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison after he pleaded that he offered Nuru gifts that included a $ 36,500 gold Rolex watch. Florence Kong, who owned SFR Recovery Inc., was the first person to be convicted in a citywide federal corruption investigation. Contractor Alan Varela, who along with two fellow businessmen gave Nuru a $ 40,000 tractor and accessories to work on his ranch, was sentenced to two years in prison.