Former San Francisco senior building inspector sentenced to prison term for accepting illegal gratuities


Date: July 17, 2023


SAN FRANCISCO — Bernard Curran, a former San Francisco Senior Building Inspector, was sentenced today to serve a year and a day in prison in connection with charges that he accepted cash payments and charitable donations from developers and property owners whose projects Curran had responsibility for approving, announced United States Attorney Ismail J. Ramsey and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Robert K. Tripp. The sentence was handed down by United States Senior District Judge Susan Illston.

Curran of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to the charges on December 9, 2022. According to his plea agreement, Curran acknowledged that he was a Building Inspector for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection ("DBI") in 2005, and in approximately 2009, was promoted to Senior Building Inspector. As a Senior Building Inspector, Curran was responsible for conducting physical inspections of buildings and construction sites in San Francisco to verify that construction or renovation work had been completed according to approved permits and plans. Curran admitted that after he became a Senior Building Inspector, he received improper financial benefits in connection with his employment.

"San Francisco government officials must always work with the public's best interest in mind and rebuff invitations for corrupt personal gain," said U.S. Attorney Ramsey. "Curran is not the first, and he will not be the last, defendant sentenced in rooting out corruption in San Francisco. Today's sentence makes clear that officials who abuse the public trust will serve time in federal custody."

"Bernard Curran chose to line his own pockets instead of performing his duties with integrity," said Special Agent In Charge Robert K. Tripp. "That's not a small lapse: building inspectors ensure our new construction is safe, and play a key role in creating new housing and businesses that make San Francisco a vibrant place to live and work. Curran's time in prison should be a stark warning to all that if you're a public servant who takes a bribe, you will be held to account."

According to his plea agreement, Curran admitted that he received cash payments from a San Francisco developer "in connection with and as rewards for" the inspections that he conducted or for the approvals that Curran granted as an inspector. In addition, Curran admitted that he accepted what amounted to a $260,000 interest-free loan from the same developer, $30,000 of which was never paid back. Curran admitted that he understood the developer never required the outstanding $30,000 balance to be repaid, "in part due to our friendship, but also in connection with and as a reward for conducting past and future inspections," on the developer's projects. Further, Curran admitted that in 2021, the San Francisco City Attorney's Office investigated potential conflicts of interest related to his employment and, in response, Curran falsely certified that the loan he received was not from the developer, but rather was from a relative and had been issued at a 6% interest rate. Curran admitted that he submitted this false statement in an effort to deceive the City officials.

In addition to the improper gifts from the developer, Curran also admitted in his plea agreement that he accepted illegal gifts from co-defendant Rodrigo Santos. Santos, a licensed civil engineer, worked with project owners and contractors seeking building permits in San Francisco. Curran admitted that between May of 2017 and April of 2020, Santos asked some of his San Francisco clients to make "charitable" donations in connection with inspections that Curran conducted. Specifically, Curran was a volunteer for, and supporter of, a non-profit organization and Santos instructed his clients to write checks for the organization. Curran admitted that on several occasions Santos discussed with Curran the checks that his clients donated while also asking for official action to be taken on specific projects. Curran admitted that the government could prove that between May of 2017 and April of 2019, Santos's clients wrote $9,600 in donations from 13 clients and that Curran took at least one official action for all 13 of the donors.

On November 28, 2022, Curran was charged by superseding information with two counts of accepting illegal gratuities, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(1)(B). Curran pleaded guilty to both counts.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Illston sentenced Curran to two years of supervised release following his prison term. The court set a further hearing on September 8, 2023, to determine the amount of restitution that Curran must pay to DBI to compensate the agency for the costs of an internal audit of projects that Curran inspected. DBI initiated the audit after the charges in this case

The case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office. The case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation.