Wille Brown appointee Rodrigo Santos, now in private practice, allegedly took checks made out to the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) and hand-scrawled them to be made out to ‘RoDBIgo Santos.” A lawsuit claims he got away with it 200 times.
It’s a scheme so ridiculous Saul Goodman wouldn’t even try it, except it allegedly worked 200 times. Willie Brown-appointed Department of Building Inspection commissioner from 2000-11 Rodrigo Santos, who knows the ins and outs of that department pretty thoroughly and is now in the private sector, tells his clients to write their checks to “DBI.” He then takes those checks and manually changes the “Pay to the Order Of” field to read “RoDBIgo Santos,” and simply cashes the checks himself. He allegedly did this to the tune of $420,000, as the Chronicle reports the former commission president has been sued for check fraud by City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
Rodrigo Santos was appointed to the Building Commission in 2000, and former mayor Gavin Newsom made him president of that commission in 2005. (He moved on to the City College Board of Trustees in 2011, as seen above).
“The fact that Mr. Santos is the former head of the commission that oversees building safety makes it all the more disgusting. He tried to use that knowledge to cheat the permitting system,” the City Attorney’s office said in a release. Referring to clients of the structural engineering firm Santos & Urrutia, Herrera’s office says “Santos would instead change the payee name on the check to his own, misspelled name. For example, he would change “DBI” to “RODBIGO SANTOS” and then deposit the check in his account. The fraud involved more than 200 checks over a three year period.”
Mission Local reminds us that the firm Santos & Urrutia had already been under a fraud lawsuit for the last two years, for misrepresenting major work as minor, hence making the permits easier to get. The lawsuit accused the firm of forging signatures and faking engineer’s stamps, and this City Attorney filing is an amendment to the same lawsuit.
We should note this whole scandal is (currently) separate from Mayor Breed’s placing DBI director Tom Hui on leave this week, and it is also separate from the sprawling Mohammed Nuru DPW scandal that ensnared the aforementioned Hui. Despite the Department of Building Inspection angle, this is also unrelated to resignation of and lawsuit brought by former Planning Commissioner Dennis Richards, who had choice words for the DBI on his way out. But this certainly buttresses Richards’ claims of corruption, graft, and favor-playing at the DBI, with that department’s top brass going back to the year 2000 now facing corruption and fraud allegations from other third parties.
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