Judge sentences SF building inspector to one year in prison

Bernie Curran pleaded guilty to accepting illegal payments to approve projects

Former San Francisco building inspector Bernie Curran (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty and SFGovTV)

Former San Francisco building inspector Bernie Curran (Photo Illustration by Steven Dilakian for The Real Deal with Getty and SFGovTV)

A federal judge has sent a disgraced San Francisco building inspector to a year behind bars after he pleaded guilty to corrupt dealings with a developer.

District Judge Susan Illston sentenced Bernie Curran to federal prison for accepting illegal reward payments from people whose properties he had inspected and approved, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

Currant, 62, was given one year after Illston shot down his request to serve home detention. He had pleaded guilty in December to two counts of accepting illegal reward payments.

One of them involved a $260,000 loan he accepted from an unnamed developer whose properties he regularly inspected. The other involved donations to his favored youth sports nonprofit by people who wanted him to inspect their properties. 

Curran worked at the Department of Building Inspection from 2005 until he resigned as senior building inspector while on administrative leave in May 2021.

In his plea agreement, he admitted accepting illegal payments from two people in connection with his official duties. 

The first was a local real estate developer with whom Curran developed a friendship in the 1990s. The second was an engineer who worked with project owners and contractors seeking building permits in San Francisco.

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Curran was first placed on leave after he failed to report a loan from the politically connected developer for whom he had performed multiple inspections. 

He first came under scrutiny after admitting that he had accepted a $180,000 loan from Freydoon Ghassemzadeh, whose family business, SIA Consulting, had been a prolific developer in town.

The loan was discovered during an ongoing investigation into the Department of Building Inspection by the city attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, and led to the resignation of Tom Hui, its former director. 

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Hui resigned in March of last year after being suspended for allegedly accepting gifts from a developer and permit expediter.

Curran had also worked with a former San Francisco building commissioner and structural engineer, Rodrigo Santos, who told clients to make charitable donations of $500 to $1,500 “attributable to Curran” to a nonprofit athletic organization. In exchange, Curran would provide favorable treatment.

— Dana Bartholomew

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