SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco Director of Public Works Mohammed Colin Nuru and restauranteur Nick James Bovis have been charged in a criminal complaint with honest services wire fraud in connection with an alleged scheme to bribe a San Francisco Airport Commissioner, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett of the San Francisco Division.
According to the complaint filed January 16, 2020, Nuru, 58, of San Francisco, and Bovis, 57, of San Mateo, engaged in a scheme to bribe an unnamed San Francisco Airport Commissioner with cash and free travel in exchange for the commissioner’s assistance to win a bid for the right to run a restaurant in the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
“The complaint describes a web of corruption involving bribery, kickbacks, and side deals by one of San Francisco’s highest-ranking city employees,” said U.S. Attorney Anderson. “The public is entitled to honest work from public officials, free from manipulation for the official’s own personal benefit and profit.”
“Government employees are entrusted and expected to protect the best interests of the American public with integrity. When that trust is betrayed, the security and stability of our government is put at risk,” said Special Agent in Charge Bennett. “The FBI will continue to investigate and hold accountable any public official who utilizes their position for personal gain.”
As part of the scheme, the defendants allegedly violated several rules relating to the bidding process for concessions at the airport. The five-person San Francisco Airport Commission awards leases from time to time that grant the right for vendors to operate businesses at the airport. For many businesses, the Airport Commission is required by law to allow vendors to bid competitively for opportunities, and then to select the vendor with the highest or best bid of all submitted proposals. Additional rules generally prohibit commissioners from communicating with vendors who have submitted bids until after a decision has been made. In this case, Nuru and Bovis are alleged to have violated rules requiring a fair competitive bidding process.
According to the complaint, Bovis is affiliated with a company that submitted a bid for a lease to provide concessions at SFO. The defendants allegedly then took steps to rig the bid. The complaint describes how the defendants met with an airport commissioner in hopes of influencing the members of the Airport Commission to award the contract to the Bovis-affiliated company. Further, the complaint describes how the defendants allegedly planned to offer the airport commissioner $5,000 and free travel, in exchange for the commissioner’s assistance to win the bid for the lease. Nuru allegedly hoped to receive benefits later by assisting Bovis and others to get the airport contract. Specifically, the complaint states Nuru mentioned to the concessioners his role as the Chair of the Joint Transbay Transit Authority (TJPA) and shared confidential information from the project to suggest that he (Nuru) would be able to direct contracts to the concessioners. In the end, however, the complaint explains that the defendants did not win the lease for the airport concessions.
The complaint further alleges several additional schemes engaged in by the defendants as evidence of their corrupt intent and modus operandi. These other schemes include: 1) Nuru using his official position to benefit a billionaire in China who was developing a large multimillion dollar mixed-use project in San Francisco, in exchange for travel and lodging, high-end liquor, and other gifts and benefits; 2) Nuru attempting to use his position as the chair of the TJPA to secure a desirable lease for Bovis in the Transbay Transit Center, in exchange for benefits provided by Bovis; 3) Nuru providing Bovis with inside information on city projects regarding portable bathroom trailers and small container-like housing units for use by the homeless, so that Bovis could win contracts for those projects; and 4) Nuru obtaining free and discounted labor and construction equipment from contractors to help him build a personal vacation home in Colusa County, California, while those contractors were also engaging in business with the City.
The complaint charges both Nuru and Bovis with one count of committing honest services wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346.
The defendants were arrested yesterday and made their initial federal appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim this afternoon. The defendants have been arraigned and released, each on $2 million bond. Magistrate Judge Kim scheduled appearances for both defendants on February 6, 2020, at 11:30 a.m.
A complaint merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted of the charge, the defendants each face a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison. Additional fines, penalties, and terms of supervised release also may be ordered; however, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, Northern District of California’s new Corporate Fraud Strike Force and is the result of an investigation by the FBI.