Thursday, February 25, 2021

San Francisco contractor sentenced to one year in prison for role in city hall bribery scandal


A construction contractor was sentenced to a year in prison Thursday for her role in the corruption scandal that brought down former San Francisco Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and entangled a host of city officials.

Florence Kong, a millionaire whose construction companies did business with San Francisco, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of bribery and lying to the FBI in October. As part of the plea agreement, she admitted to bribing Nuru with cash, a Rolex watch worth $40,000 and the installation of a gate for his vacation home. She also admitted to lying to FBI agents about her relationship with Nuru.

However, unlike other conspirators charged with bribery in the far-reaching City Hall corruption scandal, Kong did not agree to cooperate with investigators.

On Thursday, Kong, 63, was sentenced to one year and one day in prison and ordered to pay a $95,000 fine, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson.

“The sentence handed down today recognizes the seriousness of Kong’s offenses,”Anderson said.

Kong was one of several contractors taken down by the bribery scheme that came to light last year following Nuru’s resignation and arrest on charges he attempted to bribe an airport commissioner. The arrest set off an ongoing federal investigation into corruption at City Hall that extended to the City Administrator’s Office, the Planning Department and the Department of Public Health.

Prosecutors said Kong used her friendship with Nuru to secure business for her two construction companies: Kwan Wo Ironworks and a debris recycling company called SFR Recovery Inc. She admitted to exploiting their connection to gain contracts, permits and access to city officials.

Nuru was arrested and charged with fraud and lying to investigators in January 2020. Following multiple subpoenas, city planning officials were ordered to turn over communications, permits and other documents related to Kong’s companies, including a facility at 2401 Ingalls Street in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood.

FBI agents later interviewed Kong at her home in Hillsborough, where according to prosecutors, she repeatedly lied and mislead the agents. Despite the existence of damning emails and recorded phone calls on which Kong was heard bribing the then-public works director, she continued to falsely claim that she and Nuru never discussed business or exchanged money.

“Kong stuck with her falsehoods,” Anderson said.

Kong is set to begin serving her prison sentence on August 13.


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