California senator charged with criminal conspiracy


Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - Page 7

A California state senator, the third to face charges this year, was accused with 25 other people in a conspiracy that federal prosecutors said included firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire and drug distribution.

California State Senator Leland Yee, 65, the first Chinese-American elected to the California Senate, was accused in a complaint unsealed on Wednesday of six counts of conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and one count of defrauding citizens of honest services, federal prosecutors in San Francisco said in a statement.

Yee, who represents San Mateo County and part of San Francisco, is the third senate Democrat to face federal charges this year. A Los Angeles County lawmaker was convicted in January of falsifying his residency in his legislative district, while another pleaded not guilty to charges that he took bribes in a corruption sting.

Since 2011, Yee allegedly raised thousands of dollars with a co-defendant to pay off debts from a failed campaign for San Francisco mayor and to support his current run for California secretary of state by soliciting donations from undercover FBI agents in exchange for favors, including supporting a state Public Health Department contract for an agent’s purported client, the statement said.

The co-defendant, Keith Jackson, told an undercover agent in August last year that Yee had a contact in arms trafficking and sought a campaign donation for Yee to set up a meeting with the arms dealer, prosecutors said.

Jackson was charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms, narcotics distribution and use of an interstate commerce facility for the commission of a murder-for-hire, prosecutors said.

Defendant Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, identified as the leader of the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization, allegedly introduced Jackson to an undercover agent.

Prosecutors said Jackson is a “consultant” to Chee Kung Tong and sold firearms to the agent and conspired to commit a murder-for-hire requested by the agent.

Chow was charged with money laundering and other counts.

California Senate President pro tempore Darrell Steinberg said Yee must resign or the Senate would immediately hold a vote to suspend him.

“Leland Yee, yes, innocent until proven guilty, must leave the Senate and leave it now,” Steinberg said at a statehouse press conference.

Yee, a former child psychologist, served on the San Francisco board of supervisors, the city’s legislative body, until he won a state Assembly seat in 2002. He rose to the rank of speaker pro tem, the second-highest position in the chamber. Four years later, he won a seat in the Senate.