Former Building Inspection Board Head Faces Federal Fraud Charges

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The former president of the board overseeing the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection was arrested Tuesday on federal bank fraud charges.

Those charges stem from allegations that he pocketed nearly a half million dollars in client money earmarked to pay city building fees.

Rodrigo Santos, 61, the co-owner and founder of a structural engineering firm, was charged in a complaint filed Monday. He no longer serves on the Building Inspection Commission, but had been appointed to serve on that panel in 2000 by then Mayor Willie Brown, and was reappointed by Gavin Newsom in 2004.

Federal officials allege that between 2016 and 2019, Santos deposited 261 checks worth $478,000 into his personal account. The checks came from clients of his structural engineering firm and prosecutors say the funds were meant to pay city planning and building fees.

Prosecutors claim, in one case, Santos instructed owners of a residential project to write a blank check to the Department of Building Inspection and then endorsed it himself.

Authorities say when Santos was confronted he allegedly provided the FBI with phony invoices.

If convicted on all charges, Santos could face up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He is currently out on a $100,000 bond and was ordered to return to court on Friday to identify who will act as his attorney.

Separately, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera had filed a civil suit in March alleging Santos committed nine acts of check fraud. Herrera has now issued a statement saying he was “pleased that our investigation and civil enforcement action” led to the federal charges, adding that his office’s “case against Mr. Santos exposed both how he undermined public safety and how he defrauded his own clients.”

As of the time this article was published, NBC Bay Area has been unable to reach Santos for comment. 

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