Former San Francisco public works director to plead guilty in corruption case

A man holds his hand up as he walks past a reporter with a microphone
Mohammed Nuru, then-director of San Francisco Public Works, center, leaves a federal courthouse last year. Nuru agreed Friday to plead guilty to fraud, admitting to “a staggering amount of public corruption” during his nine years as director, a prosecutor said.
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

A former San Francisco public works director agreed to plead guilty to accepting bribes and kickbacks to settle a federal corruption case that has ensnared several City Hall officials and insiders.

In agreeing Friday to plead guilty to a federal fraud charge, Mohammed Nuru admitted to “a staggering amount of public corruption” during his nine years leading the city’s Department of Public Works, acting U.S. Atty. Stephanie M. Hinds said in a statement.

That included instances in which he accepted money, international trips, jewelry, restaurant meals and other goods and services from city contractors and developers in exchange for preferential treatment and confidential information about city business.


“For years, Nuru held a powerful and well-paid public leadership position at San Francisco City Hall, but instead of serving the public, Nuru served himself,” Hinds said.

“He now faces a prison sentence for enriching himself at the expense of the public as he sat in high office,” she added.

Nuru’s attorney, Ismail Ramsey, said in a statement that “Mohammed is ready to accept responsibility in this matter and begin to put it behind him. He has learned a lot from his past mistakes.”

Federal prosecutors requested that Nuru serve at least nine years in prison, though a judge could sentence him to up to 20 years. He also faces potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. In exchange for his guilty plea on the fraud charge, prosecutors agreed to drop additional charges, including lying to the FBI and money laundering.

Nuru was among the first of 12 people and three corporate entities to face federal charges as a result of the Department of Justice’s investigation into public corruption in the city and county of San Francisco. They include Harlan Kelly, a 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 work on his house.

Federal authorities said the investigation is not over.

“Today’s announcement, while significant, is by no means the end of the FBI’s investigation into the corrupt conduct we have uncovered in San Francisco city government,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair said.