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Former building inspector, city commissioner charged with fraud

Federal prosecutors on Friday announced they’re charging both former San Francisco Building Inspection Commission president Rodrigo Santos and Department of Building Inspection senior building inspector Bernard Curran with honest services wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors last month charged Santos with ten counts of bank fraud, two counts of aggravated identity theft, and one count of obstruction of justice in connection with a scheme in which he allegedly swindled some $775,000 from his clients at the firm he co-founded, Santos and Urrutia Structural Engineers Inc.

In the charges Friday, federal prosecutors allege that Santos, 63, directed his company’s clients to make charitable contributions attributed to Curran, 60, to a local nonprofit organization chosen by Curran. The donations ranged from $500 to $1,500 and were made on numerous occasions.

Prosecutors allege that because Curran’s role as senior building inspector involved conducting on-site physical inspections and approving the DBI permits, he was aware the donations were made to persuade permit approvals and used his position to provide Santos’ clients with favorable treatment.

In one instance, Curran inspected and approved work done under a DBI permit issued to one of Santos’ clients even though the work outlined in the permit was never done, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors also noted that most of the permits approved by Curran involving clients who donated to the nonprofit were not even in Curran’s assigned DBI district and were the responsibility of other inspectors.

Curran began working with DBI in 2005 and resigned while on administrative leave in May.

Santos was appointed to the city’s Building Inspection Commission by Mayor Willie Brown in 2000 and was named president of the commission by Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004.

If convicted on the honest wire fraud charge, each men face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to prosecutors.

Santos’ previous case, in which he’s charged with bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of justice, remains ongoing.

In that case, he could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million for each count of bank fraud; 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the obstruction of justice charge; and at least two years in prison for the aggravated identify theft charges, prosecutors said.

Santos firm, Santos and Urrutia, has been embroiled in scandal going as far back as 2018, when the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office first filed a lawsuit against the firm, alleging misconduct in connection with unpermitted excavations happening at properties where the firm rendered engineering services.

Also, in a separate case last year, federal prosecutors charged former Santos and Urrutia engineering technician Peter Schurman with mail fraud and identity theft in connection with an alleged scheme to issue fraudulent building inspection reports.

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