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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of California

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 20, 2021

Former San Francisco Senior Building Inspector And Former San Francisco Building Inspection Commission President Charged With Building-Permit Fraud

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal complaint filed today charges Bernard Curran and Rodrigo Santos with honest services wire fraud, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair. 

According to the complaint, Curran, 60, of San Francisco, was employed at the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) from 2005 until he resigned from his supervisory position as Senior Building Inspector while on administrative leave in May 2021.  Santos, 63, also of San Francisco, is a co-founder of the San Francisco-based Santos & Urrutia Structural Engineers who was appointed to the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission in 2000 by Mayor Willie Brown and promoted in 2004 by Mayor Gavin Newsom to be the Commission’s President.  In 2012, Mayor Ed Lee appointed Santos to the San Francisco City College Board of Trustees.  Santos’s day-to-day work involved providing engineering services to construction project owners and contractors through his structural engineering company.  His services included obtaining building permits for his clients from DBI.  

Santos was earlier indicted on July 1, 2021, in a federal indictment, case number CR 21-0268 SI, alleging bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of justice in a scheme to obtain and wrongfully divert money from clients into his own account.  That criminal prosecution remains underway. 

Today’s federal complaint describes that a major hurdle any San Francisco real property owner must clear to shepherd a construction or remodeling project from inception to completion is to obtain and comply with a permit from DBI.  A critical step in that process is the on-site physical inspection by a DBI inspector, who inspects and determines if the work completed at the site complies with work authorized and mandated by the permit.  If so, approval is issued by the inspector.  

The complaint alleges that Santos requested his clients make charitable contributions attributable to Curran to a local non-profit athletic organization favored by Curran.  These checks, in the amounts of $500 to $1,500, were written to the athletic organization on numerous occasions during the scheme.  Curran is alleged in the complaint to have been aware of these donations and understood that the payments were in furtherance of the permit-approval scheme.  In exchange for this stream of benefits flowing to Curran’s favored athletic organization, Curran repeatedly acted in his position as a DBI Senior Building Inspector to provide Santos’ clients with favorable official treatment.  In one of several incidents outlined in the complaint, Curran inspected and issued a final approval of the work done under a DBI permit issued to a Santos client though work required to comply with the permit was never done.  The complaint further alleges that most of the permits that Curran approved for Santos’ clients who donated were on properties outside of Curran’s DBI-assigned district and were the responsibility of other inspectors.

The initial federal court appearances for Santos and Curran have not yet been scheduled.

Santos and Curran are charged in the complaint with honest services wire fraud in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1343 and 1346.  They face a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a fine equal to the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the crime.  However, any sentence following a conviction would be imposed by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.  

The charges contained in a criminal complaint merely allege that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Casey Boome is the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the case with the assistance of legal assistants Ralph Banchstubbs and Kathy Tat.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated August 20, 2021