|FBI Sting Nabs City Inspector for|
Published: Thursday, 29 June 2006 12:46
A city building inspector allegedly attempted to trade favorable building inspections for payoffs from Alameda businesses that ranged from free Chinese food and a blender to cash payoffs, according to Alameda County court documents.
Hans Williams, 46, a combination inspector for the Alameda Planning and Building Department, was arraigned June 23 on two counts of soliciting bribes, after more than three months of investigation by FBI agents. Agents allegedly caught Williams discussing quid pro quo arrangements on video and audio surveillance devices. The FBI has turned the case over to the Alameda County district attorney’s office.
Williams, a Dublin resident, was released on $30,000 bail, and is expected to enter a plea when he returns to court July 7. If convicted, Williams could face up to five years in state prison.
Alameda County deputy district attorney Trevor White said the FBI often conducts investigations of state and local crimes if public officials are suspected of wrongdoing. White declined to discuss details of the case, but acknowledged that allegations of corruption may expand to include others.
“The true scope of this case may be larger,” White said, “or it may just be the two charges (against Williams).”
Williams is accused of offering Richard Chiu, a construction contractor whose extended Chinese-American family owns the Chef’s Wok and House of Bagels as well as several undeveloped properties on Bay Farm Island, favorable safety inspections on remodeling work as early as December 2005. Chiu told the FBI he often intercedes on behalf of his family due to his better grasp of English.
According to Chiu, Williams arrived at the Chef’s Wok for an inspection of remodeling work on the restaurant’s kitchen around Dec. 8, 2005. He allegedly asked if Chiu’s family had any other projects in Alameda, and told Chiu he could overlook problems with the remodeling work, saying “You help me and I’ll help you.”
The help Williams was referring to included free food at Chef’s Wok and House of Bagels, Chiu told the FBI, which Chiu said he arranged with family members.
In subsequent meetings, Williams allegedly asked Chiu to buy him a blender from Costco, and repeatedly discussed using Chiu’s contractor discount to set up an account for him at Economy Lumber in Oakland, so that Williams could purchase materials for remodeling work at his Dublin residence.
Meanwhile, city records show that Williams repeatedly signed off on work in progress at Chef’s Wok without comment, giving the restaurant a temporary permit on Jan. 26, 2006. Chiu acknowledged to the FBI restaurant a temporary permit on Jan. 26, 2006. Chiu acknowledged to the FBI that there were several flaws in the remodeling work that Williams overlooked.
Chiu began to secretly record his conversations with Williams in mid-January, court documents show. On March 9, Williams told Chiu he wanted more food from Chef’s Wok, allegedly saying “The family wants more Chinese food, what can I do?” Chiu alleges that Williams again took food without paying, and the next day Chiu filed a complaint with the FBI. Federal agents subsequently provided Chiu with audio and video devices to collect evidence against Williams, court documents reveal.
In subsequent meetings, Williams allegedly became more explicit in his requests for payoffs, apparently offering favorable inspections of Bay Farm Island housing developments owned by Chiu’s family. During one recorded conversation, court documents show, Williams insinuated that other public employees, including “my buddy from Alameda Power,” would be willing to give blanket approval to electrical work at his request, immediately before asking Chiu about opening an account at Economy Lumber.
On June 2, Chiu told the FBI that Williams called him from one of his family’s housing developments on Bay Farm Island, and allegedly asked Chiu to give him cash instead of setting up the account at Economy Lumber, apparently nervous about receiving construction supplies at his home. Williams apparently met Chiu’s brother, construction contractor William Zhao, at the development, and borrowed Zhao’s phone to call Chiu. Chiu told authorities he was not able to record the call as a result.
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