Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru leaves following a court appearance at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru leaves following a court appearance at the Phillip Burton Federal Building on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Nuru returns to court alongside restaurateur in public corruption scandal

Head of San Francisco Public Works faces fraud charge over pay-to-play allegations

The two men at the center of a widening public corruption scandal briefly appeared in federal court late Thursday morning after being arrested by the FBI over a series of alleged pay-to-play schemes.

Mohammed Nuru, the 57-year-old director of San Francisco Public Works, and local restaurateur Nick Bovis, 56, each sat without expression inside the courtroom of U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim.

Both men were released from custody on $2 million bond and are in the process of securing their bonds with property, according to attorneys. Bovis is apparently putting up his residence as collateral.

“If you violate any of the terms of the bond,” Kim told Bovis, “the government can sieze the property.”

Nuru arrived in court with supporters including his daughter and a longtime employee at Public Works.

His attorney declined to comment to reporters after leaving the courtroom.

Ahead of the hearing, an attorney for Bovis briefly defended his client’s character to reporters outside the federal building.

A criminal complaint against the duo centered around an alleged attempt to bribe of an airport commissioner with $5,000 to help secure a restaurant lease at San Francisco International Airport.

The veteran commissioner, Linda Crayton, did not accept the money and Bovis did not obtain the lease to open his chicken restaurant.

Gil Eisenberg, left, and Mike Stepanian, attorneys for Nick Bovis, speak with reporters outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building before a court appearance on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Gil Eisenberg, left, and Mike Stepanian, attorneys for Nick Bovis, speak with reporters outside the Phillip Burton Federal Building before a court appearance on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

But Crayton resigned from her post last week citing health reasons in a letter to Mayor London Breed. An FBI agent concluded in the complaint that her appearance at meetings with Bovis violated fair contracting rules.

The scandal has also prompted officials at City Hall to call for a number of anti-corruption measures including the hiring of a special investigator to review city dealings.

And on Wednesday, the San Francisco Examiner reported that Bovis ran a nonprofit to benefit children that accepted donations from city contractors and used the funds on a holiday party for Public Works in 2017.

Nuru is facing an additional charge of making a false statement to the government.

He was initially arrested and released earlier this month in secret after agreeing to cooperate with the FBI.

But upon his release, authorities say Nuru broke the agreement by telling others about the ongoing investigation.

Thus far, attorneys for Nuru and Bovis have been tight-lipped about the facts of the case.

“Mr. Nuru welcomes and looks forward to addressing these charges in court,” Nuru’s attorney Ismail Ramsey previously said.

The duo is scheduled to return to court Feb. 27 at 11:30 a.m. to set a date for a preliminary hearing.

Nuru may also be back in court Feb. 13 at 11:30 a.m. for another bond hearing.

This story has been updated.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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