Ed Lee insiders charged with corruption
Three former San Francisco City Hall insiders are facing corruption charges for allegedly taking contributions from undercover FBI agents in exchange for political access and favors, the district attorney’s office announced Friday.
Former Human Rights Commissioner Nazly Mohajer and former Human Rights Commission staffer Zula Jones are both charged with bribery and money laundering.
While District Attorney George Gascon did not announce what led to the charges, both women were implicated last year by attorneys for convicted Chinatown gang leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow in taking money from FBI agents investigating Chow on behalf of Mayor Ed Lee.
Also charged today was former political consultant Keith Jackson, who was named in a 2014 federal indictment along with Chow for participating in a criminal conspiracy to help retire former state Sen. Leland Yee’s campaign debt.
Yee and Jackson both pleaded guilty to racketeering charges last year. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 10.
Jackson faces four counts of money laundering and one count of grand theft of public money. Jones and Mohajer are each charged with four counts of bribery and one count of money laundering, according to the district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors allege that they solicited and accepted $20,000 in bribes from the FBI in exchange for political access and preferential treatment in city contracts.
Mayor Ed Lee’s spokeswoman Christine Falvey said the mayor:
“… is deeply disturbed by the alleged criminal activities of Mr. Jackson, Ms. Jones and Ms. Mohajer and strongly condemns them. There is absolutely no place in San Francisco for this corruption, especially in City government, and Mayor Lee urges the district attorney and city attorney to pursue these charges to the fullest extent.”
Unlike the Chow case, the case against Jackson, Mohajer and Jones is being charged in San Francisco Superior Court rather than at the federal level.
Corruption is a “crime against all of us,” District Attorney George Gascon said during a news conference Friday to announce the charges.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said referring to Gascon:
“He and I take public integrity and public trust extremely seriously.”
Prosecutors would not say when the investigation began but only that it has been going on for months and started as part of a federal investigation.
Attorneys for Chow wrote in court documents filed last year that Lee, Mohajer and Jones met with undercover FBI agents on April 6, 2012, and Jackson attended the beginning of the meeting.
During the meeting, one agent was introduced as a person who had raised $10,000 to cover Lee’s campaign debt and another as an entrepreneur interested in building senior assisted living facilities. The meeting went on for 20 to 25 minutes and Lee talked to the agent about bringing private business interests and development to San Francisco, according to court documents.
Mohajer allegedly asked the undercover agent after the meeting whether he would be willing “to do another $10,000 later” but the court filings do not indicate whether anything came of the meetings.
Lee denied any wrongdoing once Chow’s attorneys, Tony Serra and Curtis Briggs, made the allegations.
Chow’s attorney Curtis Briggs said Friday:
“These charges are an insult. An insult to the public.”
Briggs said he doesn’t understand why prosecutors did not charge the mayor too.
The district attorney’s office made no allegations against Lee Friday, and it is unclear exactly what activity the new criminal charges are referring to.
Briggs said of the charges Friday:
“All they got is what we told them.”
Briggs said prosecutors are trying to protect the mayor.
Jones, Mohajer and Jackson had not been arrested as of Friday afternoon. Jones and Mohajer could face more than 7 years in prison and Jackson could face more than 11 years if convicted.