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Trash company exec to cooperate with feds in San Francisco bribery investigation

Federal prosecutors say Paul Giusti, an executive with a trash company involved in a sprawling bribery scheme that overcharged San Francisco residents, was key to handing bribes to the city's public works director.

(CN) — Another domino fell in the San Francisco City Hall corruption saga Monday, after Paul Giusti, 65, the community relations manager of a San Francisco-based trash company called Recology, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery related to a sprawling kickback scheme that shook the halls of power in the city by the bay. 

“Giusti was a central player in helping the company bribe Mohammed Nuru, then San Francisco’s director of the Department of Public Works, with a continuous stream of benefits and money, ultimately worth over $1 million, to influence Nuru to perform official acts that would favor the waste management company,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a Wednesday release. 

According to the indictment, Giusti was directed by John Porter, the boss of Recology, to direct a steady stream of gifts, payments and other benefits to Nuru during a six-year period that began in 2014. 

“Mohammed is the director of the DPW who ultimately signs off on our rates. Needless to say, keeping him happy is important,” Porter said in an email to a colleague in 2015 as the company negotiated for rate increases for residential garbage collection, according to federal prosecutors.

Recology paid Nuru approximately $150,000 per year in $30,000 installments via a San Francisco-based nonprofit entirely controlled by Nuru. The company paid a total of $60,000 to a fundraiser that went on to pay for holiday parties for the Department of Public Works. 

In a phone call recorded in November 2018, Nuru asked Giusti to increase Recology’s contribution for the holiday party in 2017.

“Yeah, so last year was $15,000 you guys gave us,” Nuru said, adding, “Yeah, so if you could, if you could give me 20, that would be nice.”

The company also provided a sinecure to Nuru’s son at one of the company’s subsidiaries and provided the same son an internship at the company in the summers of 2017 and 2018. 

“These payments and benefits were made with the knowledge and approval of Giusti’s supervisor and were intended to reward or influence Nuru in exchange for official acts or influence in matters that would benefit the waste management company, all while depriving San Francisco of the honest services of its DPW Director,” the justice department said. 

Attorneys indicated in court documents that Giusti will cooperate with the ongoing investigation. Nuru and Porter have both been charged in the scheme and are awaiting trial. 

“Mr. Giusti has signed a cooperation plea agreement in which he has agreed to plead guilty and testify, provide documents, and otherwise assist in the government’s investigation,” the justice department said in a court filing. 

Nuru was arrested last month for trying to steal another man’s potato chips with a knife. A federal judge followed the bizarre incident by ordering a mental health evaluation for the erstwhile city official. 

Authorities charged Nuru in January 2020 with attempting to bribe an airport commissioner and lying to the FBI. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.

Nuru was released on $2 million bond and resigned his $273,000-per-year job the following month.

A criminal complaint claims Nuru used his position to benefit a Chinese developer in exchange for luxury hotel stays and gifts, including a $2,070 bottle of French wine. Prosecutors also say a company that won a $2 million public works contract gave Nuru a free John Deere tractor and free or discounted labor and construction materials for his vacation property in Stonyford north of San Francisco.

The sprawling federal corruption probe that kicked off with Nuru's arrest has led to the arrests of multiple city contractors and city employees. It has also resulted in four guilty pleas. Four city department heads — including Nuru and directors of the Building Department, Public Utilities Commission and City Administrator’s Office — have resigned their positions amid allegations of corruption.

Follow Matthew Renda on Twitter.

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