FBI conducts raids targeting elected officials in three states

San Francisco police and FBI agents talk near the entrance of a Chinatown fraternal organization being searched Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in San Francisco. California State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said. An FBI spokesman confirmed the arrest of Yee, but declined to discuss the charges, citing an ongoing investigation. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
San Francisco police and FBI agents talk near the entrance of a Chinatown fraternal organization being searched Wednesday, March 26, 2014, in San Francisco. California State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Federal law enforcement officials arrested two public officials in California and North Carolina and raided the office of a New York state senator in connection with separate corruption investigations on Wednesday.

Hundreds of federal agents conducted searches of offices around the San Francisco Bay Area and arrested several people on Tuesday, including state Sen. Leland Yee (D) and a former head of a Hong Kong-based crime syndicate, as part of a major public corruption probe.

Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon (D) was arrested Wednesday and charged with theft and bribery after an FBI sting operation, the U.S. Attorney’s office said. The mayor, first elected in November after serving for two decades on the Charlotte city council, allegedly solicited and accepted bribes from undercover FBI agents.

And in New York, FBI agents raided Assemblyman William Scarborough’s (D) offices and questioned Scarborough at his Albany hotel room. Scarborough told reporters the FBI asked questions about per diem reimbursements he received during his service in the state legislature.

A spokesman for the FBI confirmed the arrests and the charges, but couldn’t comment further.

The arrests come just days after federal agents raided the home and offices of Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox (D), as part of an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office, the FBI, the IRS and Rhode Island state police. Fox resigned his position on Friday and dropped his bid for reelection.

In California, FBI agents arrived to search Yee’s Capitol office in Sacramento at 7 a.m., while hundreds of federal and local law enforcement personnel searched locations around San Francisco and San Mateo, local media reported.

Local media outlets reported that the investigation targeted Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, whom federal officials have accused of being one of the U.S.-based leaders of the Wo Hop To crime syndicate, based in Hong Kong. Investigators raided the Gee King Tong Free Masons offices in Chinatown, which Chow runs.

Chow had been convicted of gun charges in the 1990s, but was released from prison after cooperating with federal officials seeking to investigate another leader of a prominent Chinatown gang.

 

Yee, the first Chinese American elected to the California state Senate, is among several candidates running for Secretary of State. His campaign spokesman and chief of staff both declined to answer questions from local media outlets.

Yee is also the third California state senator, all Democrats, to be tied to corruption investigations this year. Last month, state Sen. Ron Calderon (D) was indicted on bribery charges, and in January, state Sen. Roderick Wright (D) was convicted on eight counts of voter fraud and perjury, after being indicted in 2010.

Calderon and Wright have taken indefinite leaves of absence from the state Senate, costing Democrats their super majority status and threatening key elements of the party’s platform. State Senate President Darrell Steinberg’s spokesman told the San Jose Mercury News Steinberg wasn’t ready to comment on Yee’s arrest, though Democrats have blocked Republican-led efforts to oust Calderon and Wright in recent weeks.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins, of the Western District of North Carolina, said Cannon had been under investigation since 2010, when federal officials received tips that the then-city council member was “involved in illegal activities associated with his position as an elected official.”

A criminal complaint filed Wednesday accuses Cannon of accepting bribes from undercover FBI agents on five occasions, including as recently as last month, when he allegedly accepted $20,000 in cash in the mayor”s office. Cannon allegedly took more than $48,000 in cash, airline tickets, a hotel room and a luxury apartment “in exchange for the use of his official position,” the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

Cannon was elected in November to replace Anthony Foxx, who resigned as mayor to become the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

In Albany, Scarborough told reporters FBI agents had implied he would be indicted, apparently over travel vouchers he submitted for reimbursement. Scarborough submitted vouchers worth $825 for a five-night stay in Albany earlier this month, Capital New York reported, when his public schedule showed he attended a town meeting in Jamaica Queens. In a statement, Richard Hartunian, U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of New York, said Scarborough had not been charged, but that an investigation was ongoing.

Two New York state senators, John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, are under federal indictment on corruption charges.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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