Nick Bovis, the local restaurateur who was arrested alongside the former director of Public Works in a federal corruption investigation in January, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges and is cooperating with investigators.
The owner of baseball-themed hofbrau Lefty O'Doul's as well as local rotisserie chicken concern Spinnerie was implicated in a couple of alleged schemes that were detailed in a federal complaint that went public in January — possibly because alleged co-conspirator Mohammed Nuru blabbed to friends at City Hall in violation of an earlier cooperation agreement. One of those schemes, according to investigators, involved bribing an airport commissioner to land a spot for Spinnerie in an SFO terminal, which Nuru allegedly encouraged his friend Bovis to do.
As the Examiner reports, Bovis pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud and wire fraud charges, but further details of his plea agreement are not known. As the Chronicle notes, the charges carry a maximum 20-year sentence and possible fines of up to $250,000.
In a statement to the Chronicle, Supervisor Matt Haney said, "Nick Bovis has long held close relationships with people at the highest levels of San Francisco government. Those relationships were clearly exploited extensively for his personal benefit, and to the detriment of the public interest. I’m sure he has a lot to say and I hope he shares it all. This will hopefully help lead to the truth coming out, and any corruption within city government fully exposed."
The FBI appears to have been tapping phones around City Hall, and otherwise surveilling the activities of Nuru and possibly others in the months leading up to January's unsealed complaint. The feds' details of phone conversations and emails suggested broad knowledge of Nuru's activities, which included accepting a trip to China from the developer of the 555 Fulton project, and discussions with Bovis about a potential casino development in collaboration with the Chinese in Northern California.
There was also an alleged scheme in which Nuru was trying to get Bovis a city contract to build mobile housing for the homeless. And the City Attorney's Office is investigating some funds that appeared to have been "funneled" through a charity Bovis had set up through Lefty O'Doul's, allegedly allowing city contractors to "donate" money to cover the catering costs of DPW's holiday parties.
The scandal has led to the resignation of an airport commissioner, a slew of subpoenas from the city attorney related to the 555 Fulton project, and the forced administrative leave for Department of Building Inspection chief Tom Hui. It's also resulted in federal criminal charges against former Building Inspection Commissioner Rodrigo Santos. And Mayor London Breed had to publicly apologize for an improper gift of car repairs she received from Nuru last year.
Where else this corruption probe may lead remains to be seen, but several supervisors and the city attorney were in agreement that such an investigation into SF's long-acknowledged penchant for "low-level corruption" was a long time coming.
Not excusing corruption of any size, but it all just started to feel kind of petty and small after we started having to deal with a global pandemic — which critics of Breed are going to be quick to say has worked out ironically well for her. The minute this glowing article in The Atlantic came out last month, giving Breed credit for what was essentially a six-county effort, progressives far and wide were decrying the injustice, and not so quietly wishing we could get back to investigating her.
No doubt, the feds are still sniffing around, even if it's not necessarily around the mayor.
Photo via Twitter