According to the FBI, the owner of two longstanding San Francisco businesses was arrested Monday for his alleged role in a newly-released city corruption scandal, including a bribery scheme to open a restaurant at the San Francisco International Airport.
According to a report from the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco restaurateur Nick Bovis was arrested Monday night by the FBI and was booked into San Francisco County Jail. Bovis is the owner of the recently-shuttered Gold Dust Lounge and Lefty O’Doul’s, another Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant that was closed — at least temporarily — as of early 2020. Both the Gold Dust and Lefty’s began as Union Square institutions (the Gold Dust was a character-filled dive bar, and Lefty’s was a curious hybrid of piano bar, hofbrau, and sports viewers’ hotspot), and after bitter disputes with their landlord, relocated to the Wharf in 2013 and 2018, respectively.
The Gold Dust closed in the fall of 2019, and Fisherman’s Wharf locals who spoke to Eater SF said that Lefty’s shut down shortly thereafter, after a burst water pipe caused damage to both it and neighboring businesses.
Bovis was arrested as part of an FBI probe into “public corruption,” the SF Examiner reports. Also nabbed in the sweep was Mohammed Nuru, the long-controversial director of San Francisco’s Department of Public Works.
The pair have a longstanding relationship, with Nuru repeatedly praising Bovis from his twitter account, @MrCleanSF.
Congratulations Nick Bovis on receiving award from the SFHistory Association for all his work to support SF community pic.twitter.com/SsTIaVnQ8G— Mohammed Nuru (@MrCleanSF) July 9, 2017
In one case, they were even photographed together.
Both Bovis and Nuru were arraigned on Tuesday afternoon, Mission Local reports, and were charged with “honest services wire fraud,” for a multitude of alleged schemes — charges that could lead to sentences of 20-25 years in prison. (The full complaint against Nuru and Bovis, which was unsealed Tuesday, can be read here.)
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Nuru and Bovis allegedly conspired with a person later revealed to be an undercover federal agent in an effort to obtain the lease for a restaurant at SFO. The trio even attended a meeting with an airport commissioner while carrying a packet of cash, but did not offer the bribe to the official.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says that Nuru allegedly intervened with officials at the city’s Transbay Transit Center in an effort to help Bovis get a retail lease at the structure.
In addition, federal officials say, Nuru also allegedly provided Bovis with advance information on upcoming city contracts on homeless shelters and public toilets, with the goal of giving Bovis an advantage when the projects were opened for bids.
It’s unclear if that final project involves a well-publicized Bovis side project called “Tiny Potties,” which — according to a DPW press release from 2017 — involved the launch of a “custom-made, solar-powered portable toilet” at the corner of Haight Street and Buena Vista Avenue West. The vaunted toilet “was a design and manufacturing collaboration between Public Works and Tiny Potties, an enterprise owned by San Francisco entrepreneur Nick Bovis,” the release reads, and was part of the city’s Pit Stop public restroom program. News coverage of the toilets quoted both Bovis and Nuru regarding the effort.
According to a spokesperson for Mayor London Breed, the mayor has asked City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Controller Ben Rosenfield to review other city contracts in which Nuru might have had a hand to “ensure that they comply with city law and procedures and meet our highest standard of integrity.”
Update: January 28: 2:08 p.m. This article was updated to include additional details on the charges against Nick Bovis and Mohammad Nuru, as well as with additional information on the crimes of which they have been accused.