SAN FRANCISCO – Former San Francisco officer Sandra Zuniga, charged yesterday with conspiracy to commit money laundering, agreed to plead guilty and to work with federal investigators on the San Francisco City Hall corruption investigation in a consent form filed today . announced acting US attorney Stephanie M. Hinds, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Representative Craig D. Fair, and Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Special Representative Michael Daniels.
“Today a senior San Francisco City Hall official agreed to plead guilty to our political corruption investigation and will work with the FBI against others involved,” said acting United States attorney Stephanie M. Hinds. “This investigation continues, but the window of opportunity for collaboration is closing. If you are involved in public corruption at any level, check with the FBI before the FBI reaches out to you. Early collaboration is always rated positively. ”
“The FBI is very interested in interviewing employees and contractors of the San Francisco city government who may know firsthand about this public corruption scandal,” said FBI special agent Craig D. Fair contractors who may have relevant knowledge that are critical to the ongoing investigation. In her plea agreement, Sandra Zuniga agreed to work with the FBI. We encourage others who know to do the same. “
“Sandra Zuniga thought she could bypass the law,” said IRS Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in charge Michael Daniels. “Through numerous financial transactions over a period of nearly a decade, she attempted to hide the true source of Mohammed Nuru’s funds. No official should be allowed to behave as if he were above the law. “
Today’s developments follow a federal complaint dated June 3, 2020 accusing 45-year-old Zuniga of South San Francisco of being involved in a money laundering conspiracy. This earlier complaint against Zuniga followed allegations of corruption against Mohammed Nuru, then director of the Public Works Department (DPW) in San Francisco. The charges against Nuru allege that he had plans to bribe a San Francisco airport inspector and accept bribes from people doing business with DPW and the city. Several people have been accused of bribing Nuru and some have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government investigation.
In the federal complaint against Zuniga dated June 3, 2020, it was alleged that she laundered the proceeds of Nuru’s programs from 2014 to January 2020. The Zuniga complaint details how she made cash deposits in excess of her San Francisco government paychecks by tens of thousands of dollars. She allegedly deposited checks from Nuru employees and tracked those deposits with transactions that benefited Nuru. For example, the complaint alleged that Zuniga had been making monthly mortgage payments on Nuru’s Colusa County vacation home for years, almost always after depositing approximately $ 1,000 in cash in her own checking account and then writing a check for $ 1,000 to pay Nuru’s monthly mortgage bill . The complaint also lists a series of transactions in September 2018 in which Zuniga received a check for USD 5,000 from a contractor doing business with DPW and the City of San Francisco deposited that check, a series of transactions with those funds through various banks and then paid a $ 2,400 building bill for Nuru’s vacation home by writing a check for $ 2,500 to herself, transferring it to another bank account, and sending a check from that account to the builder for Nuru’s account to pay. In another example, Zuniga made two cash deposits totaling $ 5,600 into her account on one day in May 2014. Four days later, she wrote a check for $ 3,800 to Nuru and paid $ 1,000 for Nuru’s mortgage bill the next day. In addition, the June 2020 complaint against Zuniga describes how she traveled to South America with Nuru on a lavish two-week trip to South America in the fall of 2018, with business class flights and Ritz-Carlton accommodations all subsidized by a contractor or paid in full with the city.
The information submitted yesterday accuses Zuniga of participating in the money laundering conspiracy with Nuru by engaging in financial transactions with the proceeds of fraud, particularly wire fraud, with the intent to hide the nature and source of these funds while they became aware of the funds derived from illegal activities. Zuniga today signed a plea agreement with the court admitting the money laundering crime and expressing her intention to plead guilty to the crime.
In her plea agreement, Zuniga declares her readiness to cooperate with federal investigators in the ongoing federal investigations.
Zuniga’s admission of her own criminal behavior in her signed plea agreement, as well as a description of her circumstances and the people involved, was presented to the court in a separate “Appendix A” to the plea agreement. Appendix A is being filed under seal with the court and is currently not available for viewing. While the description of Appendix A is not public, the information filed publicly yesterday reveals more details. The money laundering conspiracy charged in today’s information is now said to have started years earlier than in the original complaint against Zuniga from June 2020. While this complaint alleged that the conspiracy began in March 2014, yesterday’s information alleged that the money laundering conspiracy was involved in a ” unknown date, but at least as early as 2010 “and continued until January 2020. Today’s information alleges that Zuniga conspired with Mohammed Nuru and other individuals known to the United States Attorney General in conducting and attempting to conduct financial transactions to launder the proceeds of wire fraud.
Zuniga is due to be tried tomorrow, Wednesday March 10th, over the information given by Judge Sallie Kim, United States Judge. Zuniga is expected to appear before US District Judge William H. Orrick in San Francisco on March 18, 2021. Zuniga remains out of custody.
Zuniga is charged with a money laundering conspiracy in violation of 18 USC § 1956 (h). The indictment provides for a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $ 500,000, or double the value of the property involved in the transactions, or both. However, a post-conviction penalty would be imposed by the court only in accordance with US Sentencing Guidelines and Federal Act on the Imposition of a Penalty, 18 USC Section 3553.
A notice merely alleges that a crime has been committed and all the accused are presumed innocent until found guilty beyond any doubt.
Investigators are asking anyone with additional information that may be relevant to the investigation to email the FBI tip number at tips.fbi.gov or call the FBI at (415) 553-7400.
The prosecution is being carried out by the US Attorney’s Office, the new Corporate Fraud Strike Force in the Northern District of California, and is the result of an investigation by the FBI and the IRS-CI.