The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California has announced charges against a former building commissioner and building contractor for his alleged involvement in a scheme to steal funds meant for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI).
Rodrigo Santos of San Francisco was charged with bank fraud. He was released on $100,000 bond. It is unclear if he has acquired the services of an attorney.
Santos, 61, is the co-founder of Santos and Urrutia Structural Engineers, Inc., a San Francisco-based engineering firm. He was involved with inspection work in the city both through his company and through political appointments, the complaint states. He was appointed to the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission in 2000, and was chosen to be the agency’s president in 2004.
An FBI investigation revealed that between January 2016 and March 2019, Santos allegedly deposited a number of checks that were written out to the DBI and other city agencies into his personal bank account. The complaint describes several examples of the alleged diversion of the funds. In one example, Santos instructed the owners of a residential project to write a blank check to the DBI for obtaining a permit from the agency. Santos ultimately deposited the money into his personal bank account by handwriting an endorsement for the DBI on the back of the check.
In another example, the owners of a different residential project purportedly gave Santos several checks they believed would be submitted to the DBI or the city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) for various permits. Santos reportedly deposited four of them into his personal bank account with hand-written endorsements for DBI or DPW.
Santos fraudulently deposited 261 checks totaling $478,377 over a period of three years, according to the complaint. When confronted by the FBI with the evidence of bank fraud, Santos allegedly submitted forged invoices to the agency.
Santos was arrested on May 12. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that charges are merely allegations, and that the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Bank fraud is usually prosecuted as a federal offense because it covers a wide range of conduct, including check fraud, wire fraud, fraudulent loans, identity theft, credit card fraud, mortgage theft, and money laundering. Federal statutes broadly define bank fraud as any type of deception used with the intent of defrauding a bank or other financial institution.
Anyone suspected of committing bank fraud by federal investigators should immediately consult an experienced attorney who can go the extra mile to ensure your rights are protected and help you avoid a prison sentence. Prosecutors generally must prove the accused acted intentionally and was aware they were receiving money through deceptive means. A good defense attorney must convince the court that the accused did not intend to deceive a financial institution, despite receiving something of value.
South Florida Bank Fraud Attorney
If you are involved in a bank fraud case, then you should hire an attorney. Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation and work with one of the South Florida’s most experienced bank fraud attorneys.