Former San Francisco Building Inspection Commission President Indicted For Bank Fraud, Obstruction Of Justice, Aggravated Identity Theft

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SAN FRANCISCO – A federal grand jury indicted Rodrigo Santos yesterday for bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and obstruction of justice, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Craig D. Fair.

An earlier criminal complaint filed May 11, 2020, against Santos, 61, of San Francisco, alleged that Santos, as the principal and co-founder of the San Francisco-based company Santos and Urrutia Structural Engineers, Inc., engaged in a fraud scheme to obtain and deposit money from his clients into his own bank account and charged him with bank fraud.  The complaint also described that Santos was appointed in 2000 to be a member of the San Francisco Building Inspection Commission by Mayor Willie Brown and promoted in 2004 to be the Commission’s President by Mayor Gavin Newsom. 

The federal indictment filed yesterday broadened the charges against Santos.  The indictment charges ten counts of bank fraud in a scheme that spanned from November 2012 through March 2019.  As part of the scheme, the indictment alleges Santos obtained money from clients who wrote checks to pay fees or costs associated with their residential building and construction projects.  The indictment asserts that in several instances, Santos manipulated the checks by editing the “pay to the order of” (“payee”) field to make the checks appear to be written to Santos.  In other instances, the indictment charges that Santos endorsed the checks to himself without authorization from his clients or the payee indicated on the check, sometimes handwriting the payee’s name on the back of the check’s endorsement field.  Santos is alleged to have deposited to his personal bank account approximately 445 such checks written as pay to the order of a third party, totaling $775,412.90. 

The indictment also charges two counts of aggravated identity theft, alleging that in February 2017 Santos, while engaging in bank fraud, twice knowingly used the identity of another person without authority. 

Lastly, the indictment charges Santos with one count of altering and falsifying records in a federal investigation, alleging that Santos twice submitted altered and false invoices of his company, Santos and Urrutia Structural Engineers, Inc., to the FBI with the intent to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into his bank fraud scheme.  

Santos is charged with ten counts of bank fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344; one count of altering or falsifying records in a federal investigation with the intent to obstruct justice, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1519; and two counts of aggravated identity theft, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1028A.  If convicted, Santos faces a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for each count of bank fraud; a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the obstruction of justice count; and at least two years in prison for a conviction on a count of aggravated identity theft, imposed consecutive to any sentence already imposed on the bank fraud counts.  However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

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The charges contained in the indictment are mere allegations. As in any criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Santos is scheduled to appear for arraignment on yesterday’s indictment on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. before the Honorable Alex G. Tse, United States Magistrate Judge.  Santos remains out of custody on bond.

This case is being prosecuted by the Special Prosecutions Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The case is being investigated by the FBI.  San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera also alleged in a state civil lawsuit unsealed in March 2020 that Santos engaged in check fraud.

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