At the center of Mayor Ed Lee’s illegal campaign contribution allegations, former Human Rights Commission official Zula Jones on Thursday declined to comment on the newly released federal evidence outside her Western Addition home.
A two-year FBI corruption probe of San Francisco’s top city officials has already brought down former state Sen. Leland Yee, among others. New evidence released this week has raised questions about whether the mayor knew about illegal contributions to his mayoral election campaign. The mayor has denied any wrongdoing.
But the new evidence in a federal court filing has Jones allegedly discussing with an undercover federal agent ways to get away with violating the rules that limit campaign donations to $500 per person by using straw donors – even asking the federal agent to use a city government email account, which could violate other campaign rules about using public resources for campaign related activities.
Jones was contacted at her Western Addition home Thursday about the allegations, but when pressed said she had no comment and asked someone nearby to call the police.
“Go away from me, now,” she shouted. “You are harassing me,” she said, adding “Bye. I don’t know you.” When informing her about her name being in various news accounts, she replied, “So what?”
Asked to explain the evidence and whether Mayor Ed Lee was involved, she said, “You’re not God. Write it down. No comment.”
In addition to the court filings, emails obtained by the San Francisco Examiner on Thursday show further communication between Jones, who was a Human Rights Commission official at the time, and an undercover FBI agent.
The undercover FBI agent listed as UCE-4773 –possing as a Michael King– in new filings from the federal organized crime case against Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, appeared to be working with Jones and Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer to illegally break up $10,000 campaign donations for Lee.
The issue of Mohajer and Jones allegedly arranging campaign money laundering is mentioned numerous times by Chow’s attorneys Tony Serra, Curtis Briggs and Greg Bentley in their recent filing.
On April 17, 2012 King and Jones talked on the phone about breaking up large sums to hide who is making the donations. “I can give you a list of names if that’s what you want. The people that we broke it down … which I promised you I was gonna do,” she said. “They were mostly my family and my close friends, people I trust,” according FBI wiretaps listed in the court filing.
When King said he’d contact her, she gave him her work email – email@example.com – and said, “when you send me the email … because its city’s email, just say, um, please send me the information. Forward me the information you promised me and I will prepare it.”
An email obtained by the Examiner shows the undercover agent went ahead and sent that email.
“Hello Zula – per our conversation last night, can you please provide the information that you and I discussed. Greatly appreciated!!” wrote the undercover agent who was posing as businessman Michael King with King Funding Group. “Please feel free to give me a call if there are any questions or concerns. Thanks Zula!”
A Michael King was recorded in Lee’s campaign filings as donating $500 to the campaign on March 15, 2012.
In an April 17, 2012, recorded phone call between King and Jones, according to the filing, she accidentally told him how to hide money over the campaign limits by using straw donors.
“Ed knows that you gave $10,000 … he knows that you will give another $10,000. He also knows that we had to break the $10,000 up,” said Jones in a recording from 2012 with an undercover FBI agent posing as a businessman who, according to the filings, gave the mayor more money than was legally allowed.
City law only allows $500 donations per individual.
Lee allegedly met that same undercover agent posing as King on April 6, 2012 at Mohajer’s office at 945 Front Street, according to the filing. Mohajer introduced King to Lee as an “individual who had raised $10,000 to assist in retiring the campaign debt.”
The Monday after the meeting, Mohajer met with King and discussed breaking up an additional $10,000 contribution, according to the filing. When King asked about breaking up the funds into small increments, Mohajer said, “Yeah, we can do that … we have no problem with that … but the only thing is … you can never talk to anybody about this. You know?”