Rodrigo Santos, the former president of the Building Inspection Commission, was sued by the City Attorney’s Office in 2018 for alleged permit fraud and forgery of documents to perform construction work. Santos, a long-time structural engineer with deep political ties in San Francisco, was named in the lawsuit along with his business partner Albert Urrutia. (Courtesy photo)

Feds charge former SF building commissioner Rodrigo Santos with bank fraud

A former San Francisco building commissioner has been charged with bank fraud for allegedly pocketing funds meant to be paid to city agencies, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Rodrigo Santos, the co-founder of a structural engineering company, is accused of depositing more than $478,000 into his personal bank account in checks that were intended for others.

Santos, 61, was first appointed to the Building Inspection Commission by then-Mayor Willie Brown in 2000 and later as the president of the commission by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was mayor of San Francisco at the time in 2004.

An FBI investigation allegedly revealed that Santos fraudulently deposited 261 checks into his account between January 2016 and March 2019, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

In one case, Santos is alleged to have deposited a $1,314.50 check to the Department of Building Inspection into his account by changing the letters “DBI” to “RoDBIgo SANTOS.”

Santos faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

He was arrested Tuesday morning and ordered released on a $100,000 bond, prosecutors said.

Alameda County jail records show Santos was booked into Santa Rita Jail at 6:51 a.m., where he remained as of early afternoon.

The news comes after City Attorney Dennis Herrera first accused Santos and his firm of allegedly stealing more than $420,000 from his clients through check fraud.

Herrera added the allegations to an existing lawsuit against Santos in March 2020. In a statement, Herrera said he was “pleased that our investigation and civil enforcement action has led to criminal charges against Mr. Santos.”

“Our office works tirelessly to make sure that those who abuse the law are held to account — no matter their position,” Herrera said. “Our case against Mr. Santos exposed both how he undermined public safety and how he defrauded his own clients.”

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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