Ex-San Francisco official tasked with cleaning up filthy streets awaits sentence on corruption, bribe scandal


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A former San Francisco official tasked with cleaning up the city’s filthy streets is expected to be sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to a widespread corruption scandal that involved accepting bribes of money, lavish vacations and luxury goods while the city infrastructure and residents suffered.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday about an apparent scandal after a current San Francisco Public Works official used department letterhead in requesting leniency for the department’s disgraced former chief, Mohammed Nuru, ahead of Thursday’s sentencing by Judge William Orrick. 

Nuru, the former San Francisco Department of Public Works director, pleaded guilty in January to honest services wire fraud. He had faced a 79-page indictment in January 2020 charging him with public corruption and describing a long-running scheme involving multiple bribes and kickbacks during his long-running tenure from 2011 until the charges were first announced against him. 


Mohammed Nuru, director of Public Works, speaks  on the steps of San Francisco City Hall during a rally supporting Better Market Street on Tuesday, October 15, 2019.
(Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

He also faced a second indictment of lying to a federal agent during the San Francisco City Hall corruption investigation. 

Federal prosecutors say Nuru could face up to 20 years in prison after admitting to accepting whopping cash bribes, international travel, gifts of luxury a Rolex and jewelry and other kickbacks from city contractors, restaurateurs and even a billionaire developer from China. But Nuru’s defense attorneys requested a sentence of just three years behind bars. 

Using department letterhead, current Public Works Deputy Director for Operations DiJaida Durden wrote to the judge explaining that she worked for Nuru for 19 years starting as just a cement mason. 

“Mr. Nuru was tough on staff, encouraging us to be all that we can be… Most importantly he wanted us to take pride in how our city looks. Mr. Clean certainly fit his style of working because not only did he encourage staff to take care of the city, he did it himself,” Durden wrote of Nuru, asking for a lenient sentence. “He mentored me by being a positive influence, bringing out the best in me, and inspiring me to focus on the details of the city’s need, by taking ownership in what we do.” 

Mohammed Nuru, the Department of Public Works' deputy director for operations, speaks to the handful of protesters on hand to oppose the painting over of the graffiti at the Warm Water Cove park.

Mohammed Nuru, the Department of Public Works’ deputy director for operations, speaks to the handful of protesters on hand to oppose the painting over of the graffiti at the Warm Water Cove park.
(Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The letter also included testimonies from other current and former officials in the department Nuru once ran attesting to his character.  


“Mohammed Nuru admits to a staggering amount of public corruption in his plea agreement,” Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds said in December, announcing the plea deal. “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.  He took continuous bribes from the contractors, developers, and entities he regulated.  He now faces a prison sentence for enriching himself at the expense of the public as he sat in high office.  Federal authorities will investigate public corruption wherever it leads in San Francisco and throughout the district.”  

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