SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Notorious gangster Raymond "Shimp Boy" Chow, the leader of the San Francisco-based Chinese fraternal organization Chee Kung Tong, was arrested and charged in federal court on multiple counts of money laundering, conspiracy and trafficking after a five-year undercover investigation by the FBI that also resulted in the arrest of 21 others.
The FBI raided the CKT's headquarters Wednesday morning, and by the afternoon, Chow was standing before U.S. District Judge Nathanael Cousins.
The FBI sting also ensnared State Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat who represents San Francisco and parts of San Mateo County. Yee is currently running for Secretary of State. He was charged with one count of a conspiracy to traffic firearms and six counts of fraud.
Chow's criminal exploits are infamous in San Francisco. Since 1978, he has been arrested and convicted of armed robbery, assault with a firearm, extortion, drug trafficking and attempted murder. Chow was also a member of the Chinatown street gang the Hop Sing Boys. He is currently the Dragonhead of Chee Kung Tong, also known as the Chinese Freemasons, whose criminal activities have been under investigation by law enforcement since the 2006 murder of its previous Dragonhead, Allen Leung, which remains unsolved. Chow is also believed to be involved in the Triad, a Hong Kong-based criminal syndicate.
The government agents' activities dominated the day's news in San Francisco with coordinated raids on CKT headquarters in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown in the tourist center of the city, accompanied by the sound of saws said to be breaking into the group's safe, while other agents raided political offices in both San Francisco and the state Capitol. In all 22 were arrested with four people still on the run.
The federal affidavit
from Special Agent Emmanuel Pascua says undercover officers infiltrated the Chee Kung Tong organization through contacts with Chow, who said he knew of and approved all of the group's criminal activities, according to the affidavit. An agent posing as an east coast member of the Italian syndicate La Cosa Nostra used Chow's connections to launder money that was supposedly from gambling and drug sales.
As the relationship evolved, Chow and other CKT members schemed with the undercover agent to transport stolen liquor to China. Chow often told the agent that he OK'd the criminal activity but needed to keep his image clean because he was constantly being watched. Chow accepted tens of thousands of dollars from the agent as payment for setting up money-laundering schemes and stolen alcohol and cigarette deals.
According to the affidavit, on August 5, 2010, Chow introduced the agent to prominent San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson, saying Jackson "has a lot of political influence and can do 'inside deals' with the city." The agent then began a relationship with Keith Jackson, his son Brandon Jackson and associate Marlon Sullivan, who sold him firearms and two ballistic vests, purportedly to protect his marijuana grows, and agreed to commit a murder for hire at the agent's request.
The two Jacksons and Sullivan were arrested on charges of trafficking firearms and using interstate commerce for the commission of murder for hire.
The affidavit says the agent also sold them cocaine, and the three admitted to the agent that they were involved in narcotics trafficking to the east coast. They told the agent that they were interested in selling hard drugs and asked if the agent would supply them.
Jackson allegedly introduced an undercover agent to Yee in 2011, and then Jackson began soliciting the undercover agent for donations to Yee's mayoral campaign, which he lost. The first undercover agent then introduced a second undercover agent to Jackson and Yee, and the second agent ultimately donated $11,000 to the campaign, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit says Yee was wary of Chow given his criminal past, but ultimately took $6,800 for his secretary of state campaign in exchange for honoring the Chee Kung Tong with an official Senate proclamation.
In December 2013, Jackson arranged for Yee to introduce another agent to an international arms dealer in exchange for a $5,000 contribution to his secretary of state campaign. Yee allegedly told the agent that his contact "'has things you guys want," but that dealing with him "was not a business for the faint of heart."
The agent told Jackson he would pay Yee at least $100,000 upon completion of the first weapons transaction, according to the affidavit.
According to the complaint,Yee later said, "Because I'm getting a little more into this, it's not just Russia; the Muslim countries have sources too. And so, that has been brought to my attention recently."
At a meeting at a restaurant with the agent and Jackson on February 25, 2014, Yee attributed his success as a public official to being careful and cautious, according to the affidavit. Yee said his concern stemmed from the recent arrest and indictment of Democratic State Senator Ronald Calderon on corruption charges, according to the government. But he said he took an "agnostic" stance on the arms deal, saying "People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don't care. People need certain things."
The agent told Yee he wanted to obtain a container of weapons and anticipated spending $2 million, according to the government's affidavit. At a meeting in early March, Yee and the agent discussed Muslim terrorist organizations in the Philippines, and said the weapons deal could not go through until after the election. On March 14, Yee met with the agent and Jackson to discuss how to break the cash from the deal into legitimate campaign donations.