The ‘RoDBIgo Santos’ check fraud scandal nearly doubles in scope, as the FBI says he cashed almost twice as many forged checks as they stated in their first indictment.
It was the funniest moment in SF public corruption since the days of Oh No, Ed Jew when in early May, the FBI picked up on a case the City Attorney was prosecuting and charged former Department of Building Inspection (DBI) commission president Rodrigo Santos with bank fraud totaling $478,000. In one of many such examples cited in the criminal complaint, the Department of Justice alleged that “homeowners wrote a check in the amount of $1,314.50 as pay to the order “DBI,” and Santos added letters changing ‘DBI’ to ‘RoDBIgo SANTOS.’ The check was deposited into Santos’s personal bank account.”
Feds hit Santos with another criminal complaint late Friday morning, with more bank fraud and identity theft charges that ups the total of his allegedly ill-gotten gains to $775,000. “The indictment asserts that in several instances, Santos manipulated the checks by editing the ‘pay to the order of’ (‘payee’) field to make the checks appear to be written to Santos. In other instances, the indictment charges that Santos endorsed the checks to himself without authorization from his clients or the payee indicated on the check, sometimes handwriting the payee’s name on the back of the check’s endorsement field. Santos is alleged to have deposited to his personal bank account approximately 445 such checks written as pay to the order of a third party, totaling $775,412.90.”
The indictment also charges that once the Feds were on to him, he submitted doctored invoices to them to try to make his legitimate income appear to match the enormous sums in his bank account. They charge him with aggravated identity theft, alleging that in February 2017 Santos, "while engaging in bank fraud, twice knowingly used the identity of another person without authority.”
The Chronicle notes that Santos is currently out on bail, but will be arraigned on the new charges Tuesday. Per the indictment, “If convicted, Santos faces a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for each count of bank fraud; a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the obstruction of justice count; and at least two years in prison for a conviction on a count of aggravated identity theft, imposed consecutive to any sentence already imposed on the bank fraud counts.”
This is not directly related to the Mohammed Nuru scandal, but that scandal did set off a subsequent fine-tooth combing through the doings of DBI that has uncovered corruption galore. For his part, Santos was appointed to the DBI commission by then-mayor Willie Brown in 2000, and Gavin then appointed him president of the body in 2004. He left the year after for his private structural engineering consultant business Santos & Urrutia, in which capacity he committed these alleged crimes.
On a related note, SFist always tries to credit the image we use at the top of an article, and in this case, the photo is from that very firm Santos & Urrutia. And it’s a good thing we already had this image on file, because the Santos & Urrutia website appears to now have gone kaput. That said, SFist placed a call to their main business line, and a receptionist did answer, and the place is still open for business despite the mounting indictments.
So sure, go ahead and call them with your home remodeling and permitting needs. But think twice before handing them any check they tell you to make out to the DBI.
Related: Former SF Building Commission President Sued for $420k in Check Fraud [SFist]
Image: Santos & Urrutia