The public corruption probe that led to charges against former San Francisco Public Works head Mohammed Nuru widened Monday as federal prosecutors charged his longtime romantic partner Sandra Zuniga, a city employee, for alleged money laundering schemes. Two city contractors were also charged, one for making false statements and another for bribery.
Zuniga, 44, was in charge of San Francisco’s Fix-It Team, a special unit designed to clean up neighborhood streets, but is now facing up to 20 years in prison for a charge of one count of conspiracy to launder money, federal prosecutors announced Monday.
She is accused of personally benefiting from Nuru’s alleged schemes and allegedly helping to launder money for a span of several years.
In one allegation, Zuniga received a check for $5,000 in September 2018 from a contractor who does business with Public Works and The City. She allegedly deposited the contractor’s check in her personal banking account and then made a number of transactions with other banks to allegedly conceal the source of funds before using the money to pay a $2,400 construction bill on Nuru’s Stonyford vacation home.
The federal complaint against Zuniga alleges that she made over $135,000 in cash and check deposits into her checking account from March 2014 to January 2020, and then used that money to benefit Nuru, such as by paying for the mortgage on his vacation property. The complaint alleges that Zuniga knew the deposited funds were “proceeds of illegal activity.”
One of the city contractors charged Monday was Balmore Hernandez, a former longtime Public Works employee and now CEO of construction firm AzulWorks. He is facing a bribery charge.
Hernandez allegedly provided more than $250,000 in labor and materials to Nuru to help him build a home on 10 acres of land in Stonyford between 2016 and 2018.
Hernandez allegedly then asked Nuru for help with AzulWorks’ bid on a multi-million dollar project after it was deemed an unqualified proposal. AzulWorks later won the $1.9 million city contract.
Also, Hernandez allegedly sought help from Nuru to get a city contract to operate an asphalt plant on property owned by the Port of San Francisco.
Florence Kong was the other city contractor charged Monday. She was charged with lying to the FBI when they were investigating Nuru’s schemes. She allegedly denied ever discussing business with Nuru, but the complaint said the FBI intercepted calls that indicate Nuru was helping her to receive city construction contracts.
Kong owns San Francisco-based construction company Kwan Wo Ironworks and a debris recycling company called SFR Recovery Inc. She allegedly provided Nuru with cash, a Rolex watch valued at more than $40,000, which FBI agents seized from Nuru’s home in January, and expensive meals.
Kong and Hernandez appeared in federal court Monday and are expected back in court on June 15. Zuniga is scheduled to make her first court appearance
In January, Nuru and local restaurateur Nick Bovis were arrested and charged with one count of wire fraud in an alleged scheme to bribe a former airport commissioner for a lease at the San Francisco International Airport. A federal complaint detailed a number of other alleged schemes and had referred to Zungia only as “Girlfriend 1.”
Bovis has since pleaded guilty to charges and agreed to cooperate with federal authorities.
“The federal investigation into City Hall corruption has not been sidetracked by COVID-19 or other recent traumatic events,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said in a statement. “Today’s criminal complaints will not be the last. To everyone with a piece of this corruption, again I urge you to help make things right for San Francisco. Run, don’t walk to the FBI, before it is too late for you to cooperate.”