Another figure in the ever-unspooling SF City Hall corruption scandal has agreed to plead guilty to bribing former Department of Public Works head Mohammed Nuru, and this means one more cooperating witness for the feds in the cases against Nuru and potentially others.
Paul Giusti, who formerly served as community relations manager for the San Francisco group of Recology — our 100-year-old local waste-management monopoly — has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to bribe a local official and commit honest services fraud, according to an announcement by the Justice Department. The joint statement by Acting U.S. Attorney Stephanie Hinds, FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair, and IRS Criminal Investigation Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Daniels adds that as part of the deal, Giusti has agreed to cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
If convicted, Giusti, 65, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Giusti was arraigned Wednesday, and he'll make his initial court appearance on August 9 before U.S. District Judge Chhabria.
Giusti was the first of two executives at Recology to be ensnared in the federal probe, and he was charged in November with multiple counts of bribery and money laundering. According to the federal complaint against him, Giusti was responsible for around $1 million in bribes to Nuru and his department which were often disguised as donations to non-profits. These included "payments of approximately $150,000 per year, in $30,000 installments, from 2014 into 2019 to a San Francisco non-profit organization, knowing that Nuru ultimately controlled this money" — and this brings up the alleged shadiness with city-affiliated non-profits that has bubbled up to Board of Supervisors meetings in recent months.
Also, Giusti allegedly funneled $60,000 between 2016 and 2019 to pay for DPW holiday parties, disguised as "holiday donations" to the Lefty O'Doul's Foundation for Kids, the non-profit run by Lefty O'Doul's owner Nick Bovis, who was the first co-conspirator to be charged alongside Nuru and one of the first take a plea deal.
Giusti was also accused of getting a job at Recology for Nuru's son, and then when the company got wise and fired him, Giusti allegedly landed him a Recology-funded paid internship at a non-profit.
Per the DOJ announcement, according to a court filing, “Mr. Giusti has signed a cooperation plea agreement in which he has agreed to plead guilty and testify, provide documents, and otherwise assist in the government’s investigation.”
The second Recology executive who faces federal charges is former vice president and manager of the San Francisco group John Porter, who was charged in April.
Federal investigators say that Porter may have been directing the bribes that were executed by Giusti, and that Porter's larger aim was getting Nuru to sign off on an increase in so-called "tipping fees" that Recology was charging the city for disposal of waste at its sustainable crushing facility.
Giusti's plea agreement signals that he may be providing testimony in that case as well.