SAN FRANCISCO—Sandra Ann Zuniga, 45, former Director of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, pled guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with the FBI investigating corruption into San Francisco City Hall, announced federal prosecutors in a press release on Tuesday, March 9.
The feds indicated that Zuniga conspired with several other people including Mohammed Nuru, a former SF Public Works Director, to conduct financial transactions that involved wire fraud.
“Yesterday’s filed information charges Zuniga with engaging in the money laundering conspiracy with Nuru by conducting financial transactions with the proceeds of the crime of fraud, specifically wire fraud, and with the intent to conceal the nature and source of those funds, all while knowing the funds were derived from illegal activity,” read the plea agreement.
The plea agreement indicated that beginning in 2014 through January 2020, Zuniga allegedly began to launder money due to Nuru’s schemes.
“The Zuniga complaint details how she made all-cash deposits in amounts that exceeded her San Francisco government paychecks by tens of thousands of dollars,” officials announced.
Officials said Zuniga made monthly mortgage payments on Nuru’s vacation residence in Colusa County, California “almost always after depositing approximately $1,000 in cash into her own checking account and then writing a check for $1,000 to pay Nuru’s monthly mortgage bill.”
Another example the authorities provided was a set of transactions in September 2018, where Zuniga received a check for $5,000 from a contractor “doing business with the San Francisco Department of Public Works (DPW) and the City of San Francisco, deposited the check, executed a series of transactions with those funds through different banks, and then paid a $2,400 construction bill on Nuru’s vacation home by writing a $2,500 check to herself, depositing it into another bank account, and sending a check from that account to the construction contractor to pay Nuru’s bill.”
The authorities provided a third example that occurred in May 2014, when Zuniga deposited two checks worth $5,600 into her bank account, then four days later wrote another check to Nuru worth $3,800, then wrote a third check worth $1,000 to pay off Nuru’s monthly mortgage payment.
The authorities said, “Further, the June 2020 complaint against Zuniga describes how she traveled in the fall of 2018 with Nuru on a lavish two-week trip to South America, with business class flights and Ritz-Carlton accommodations, all subsidized or paid entirely by a contractor doing business with the City.”
“Sandra Zuniga thought she could circumvent the law,” said IRS Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Daniels. “Through numerous financial transactions, over a period of almost ten years, she attempted to hide the true source of Mohammed Nuru’s funds. No public official should be allowed to behave as if they are above the law.”
The plea agreement states that Zuniga agreed to a fine of $500,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. According to federal prosecutors, Zuniga remains out of custody on bond.
The FBI is asking anyone who might have additional information relevant to the investigation to email the FBI tip line at tips.fbi.gov or to call the FBI at (415) 553-7400.