• Ex-gang leader was praised as role model
     | March 28,2014
    ap photo

    A Federal agent carries away boxes of evidence following a search of a Chinatown fraternal organization Wednesday in San Francisco. A California state senator 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 State Sen. Leland Yee, but declined to discuss the charges, citing an ongoing investigation.

    SAN FRANCISCO — A former gang leader with ties to San Francisco’s Chinatown who was praised for cleaning up his public image after serving more than a decade in prison now faces up to 95 years behind bars on money-laundering and other charges.

    The allegations against Raymond Chow — nicknamed Shrimp Boy — were outlined in an FBI criminal complaint that names 25 other defendants, including California Sen. Leland Yee and Keith Jackson, Yee’s campaign aide.

    Recently, Chow, the leader of the San Francisco-based Ghee Kung Tong fraternal organization, had been held up as an example of successful rehabilitation.

    The Sacramento Bee reported that Chow was commended by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in 2012 as a former offender who had become a community asset. He was also lauded by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee for his “willingness to give back to the community.”

    But he is now accused of money laundering, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen property, and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.

    In 1992, he was among more than two dozen people indicted on racketeering charges for their alleged involvement in crimes ranging from teenage prostitution to an international drug trade mostly involving heroin. He also acknowledged in an unpublished autobiography that he ran prostitution rings in the 1980s, smuggled drugs and extorted thousands from business owners as a Chinatown gang member, KGO-TV reported two years ago.

    He was later convicted of gun charges and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He spent 11 years in prison and was released in 2003 after he cut a deal with the government to testify against another high-ranking associate.

    In federal court Wednesday, Chow appeared in handcuffs and civilian clothing, shackled at the waist along with 20 other defendants. He sat upright and spoke with his public defender, Elizabeth Falk.

    He was denied bail because he was deemed a flight risk and a danger to the public. The Department of Homeland Security has been trying to deport Chow, who is not a U.S. citizen, since he was released from prison in 2005.

    Chow and Yee were arrested Wednesday during a series of raids in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Yee’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, read a letter Thursday that Lee sent to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen informing her that he was dropping out of the race for the office.

    “I hereby withdraw my candidacy for election of Secretary of State, effective immediately,” the one-line letter read.

    “This was a very personal decision on the part of the senator,” DeMeester said. “This is what he wanted to do in relation to that election for office given the circumstances of the federal case.”

    State legislators have called on Yee to step down from the state Senate.

    Asked whether Yee planned to do that, DeMeester declined to comment.

    “We’re taking it one issue at a time,” DeMeester said.

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