The case against California State Sen. Leland Yee is not your run-of-the mill tale of political corruption.
It reads more like a Jackie Chan movie script. There’s the FBI agent posing as an Italian Mafioso in a karaoke bar, a bad-boy Chinatown gangster known as “Shrimp Boy” who’s supposedly on the straight and narrow, and a veteran politician trading political favors for campaign cash.
Sen. Yee, a high-profile gun control advocate was arrested Wednesday for corruption and weapons trafficking, along with political consultant Keith Jackson and Chinatown mob boss Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow.
Chow became the “dragonhead” of Chee Kung Tong, a Freemason-like group and alleged criminal enterprise, in 2006 after its previous leader was killed in a murder that remains unsolved. Chow is also believed to be the leader of a San Francisco street gang called Hop Sing, the complaint said. Since he got out of jail in 2003, Chow has been a model citizen, working with troubled youth and earning accolades from the likes of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Or so it seemed. The criminal complaint made public Wednesday portrays Chow as a leader of Chinatown’s dark underworld, pulling strings and making introductions in international criminal circles, but never getting his own hands dirty.
What started as an ordinary gang take-down turned into a political corruption investigation when Chow introduced an undercover FBI agent posing as a member of La Cosa Nostra to former San Francisco School Board member Keith Jackson, a political consultant and fundraiser for Sen. Yee.
Jackson knew how to get “inside deals” done, Chow said.
Over the course of several years, Jackson’s dealings with undercover agents involved credit card fraud, drugs, illegal arms deals, even murder for hire. In 2011, Jackson and Sen. Yee both hit up undercover agents for cash to fund the Senator’s mayoral bid, the complaint said.
After Yee lost the race he continued to seek funds from the undercover agents to retire his campaign debt and pay for his 2014 secretary of state campaign in exchange for political favors, including lobbying a state agency for contracts, setting up meetings between politicians and donors with businesses in need of influence, among other things.
Investigators also said Yee discussed helping the agents bring into the U.S. up to $2.5 million worth of weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles, from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines. The San Francisco Chronicle has more details of the alleged conversations.
In a coordinated pre-dawn raid on Wednesday, Yee, Jackson, Chow and a handful of others were taken into custody. The Associated Press has more details on the arrests and charges.
“Leland always told me to be careful about taking money from the family associations, because you never know where the money is coming from. This kind of flies in the face of what he has told me,” Wayne Lee, a Yee protege who is mayor of the nearby suburb of Millbrae, told the AP. “He’s always been a champion for the downtrodden. I am hoping that he will be vindicated.”
On Thursday Yee withdrew from the race for secretary of state.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Yee and Jackson are no strangers to scandal. Here is a timeline of their past exploits.