A San Francisco Superior Court judge today agreed to lower by $40 million the bail of a former civil engineer facing 232 felony charges for allegedly impersonating licensed engineers and forging building documents.
Jimmy Jen, 56, of San Francisco, and a former associate at Jen’s engineering company, 40-year-old Jian Min Fong of Oakland, were jailed on Aug. 3 for what District Attorney Kamala Harris called a “massive fraud.”
According to prosecutors, Jen, who is now unlicensed, allegedly forged the signatures and stamps of two licensed engineers on documents related to more than 100 construction projects throughout the city between 1990 and 2007. An investigation began in 2008.
The construction projects were mostly residential but also included the redevelopment of the now-closed Alexandria Theater in the Richmond District into a condominium complex.
Prosecutor Marc Katz said today that Jen’s ex-wife Nancy Jen is the largest stakeholder in the theater.
Jen is still awaiting arraignment on the charges and remains in custody. Bail had been set at $50 million at the request of prosecutors, who claimed Jen is an international flight risk.
Jen’s current attorney, Frederick Remer–who told Judge Donald Mitchell that he has not yet been permanently retained by Jen and could thus not yet arraign him–nevertheless argued that his client should be released from custody in order to better assist with the investigation.
“If I can get this guy out, I can defend this case,” Remer told Mitchell.
Katz, however, said the “shadowy transactions” at the center of the case mirrored worrisome behavior by Jen after the investigation began.
He also said authorities had seized Jen’s passport in February 2009, but that after his recent arrest they discovered Jen had obtained “new, purportedly valid” U.S. and Chinese passports.
“He’s somebody who was ready and able to flee,” Katz said.
Remer said Jen has lived in San Francisco for 30 years and decided to remain here despite the fact that his mother was recently “very ill” in Taiwan. He also argued that Jen has declared bankruptcy and has no money to flee.
“If you need to put a GPS on his leg, put it on his leg,” Remer told Mitchell. “He’s not going anywhere.”
Mitchell ultimately agreed a $50 million bail amount was “excessive” but added, “There should be some assurance that he will not leave this jurisdiction.”
He set bail at $10 million and agreed to put Fong on supervised release from jail, citing a “significant difference” in his alleged involvement in the scheme.
Jen is due back in court Friday morning for arraignment.