A businessman who admitted to conspiring over multiple years to bribe former SF Public Works chief Mohammed Nuru in order to gain financial benefits for his company has been sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Alan Varela was sentenced Thursday for his role in bribing Nuru to secure lucrative city contracts for his Oakland-based construction firm, ProVen Management. Varela and his business partner, William Gilmartin, were charged by the feds last September, and Varela pleaded guilty in May to conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud.
Over the course of seven years, from 2013 to early 2020, Varela and his co-conspirators wined and dined Nuru, and offered bribes in cash and gifts as well, in order to secure a contract to build an asphalt recycling and concrete plant on Port of SF land in San Francisco. As laid out in a Department of Justice release today, Nuru arranged to have ProVen's proposal for the the plant selected in 2015, and in exchange, Varela and his co-conspirators gifted him a $40,000 John Deere tractor for his Colusa County vacation property.
According to a federal filing, the day the tractor was delivered, shortly after an expensive dinner in which Nuru asked for it, Nuru texted a photo to Varela and Gilmartin to say, "Work begins at the ranch."
Varela was also apparently involved in laundering a bribe to Nuru, getting another company to reward a $100,000 contract to another contractor, Balmore Hernandez, who in turn used the money to do work on Nuru's Colusa County ranch.
Hernandez pleaded guilty in the federal probe last October, and has presumably been cooperating with prosecutors. He and Gilmartin have yet to be sentenced.
U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick handed down Varela's sentence, giving him 24 months in federal prison as well as ordering him to pay a $127,000 fine. Also Varela will face three years of supervised release.
The DOJ release today implies what the endgame for this ongoing probe will likely be: the prosecution of Nuru himself and former SF Public Utilities Commission manager Harlan Kelly.
"This case is part of a larger federal investigation targeting public corruption in the City and County of San Francisco," the release says. "To date, eleven individuals have been charged, including two high-ranking San Francisco public officials, Mohammed Nuru and Harlan Kelly."
While the feds don't have Kelly on the hook for taking as many bribes as Nuru, they allege that he "received thousands of dollars in airfare, meals, jewelry, and travel expenses, along with repair work on his house" from city contractors.
When Kelly was charged in late November, the feds accused him of accepting a family trip to China from permit expeditor and city contractor Walter Wong, along with his wife, former City Administrator Naomi Kelly. Naomi Kelly resigned from her role in January, denying the allegations and saying they came from "admitted liar" Wong.
The only other city contractor to be sentenced to jail time to date is Florence Kong, who was sentenced to one year back in February.
Kong's companies SFR Recovery Inc. and Kwan Wo Ironworks Inc., along with Varela and Gilmartin's company, and Walter Wong, were among the contractors suspended by the City Attorney in March from doing future business with the city.
Related: Pair of Businessmen Who Sought Contract For Asphalt Recycling Plant Charged In SF City Hall Corruption Probe