State Sen. Leland Yee was arraigned in U.S. District Court today on charges of weapons trafficking and scheming to defraud citizens as part of an indictment that includes allegations of drug running, money laundering, trafficking in stolen goods and murder for hire.
In addition to the charges against Yee, the indictment unsealed today names 26 people including Keith Jackson, a 49-year-old former San Francisco school board member, who is accused of being involved in a murder-for-hire scheme and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a notorious alleged Chinatown gang leader, accused of money laundering and trafficking in stolen goods.
Yee, 65, appeared in federal court in San Francisco before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins to answer to one count of trafficking in firearms and illegally importing firearms and six counts of schemes to defraud citizens. The six counts of fraud each carry a possible sentence of 20 years in prison.
He was released today on a $500,000 bond and stripped of his passport and instructed not to leave the state of California.
Yee was arrested this morning in a series of FBI raids throughout the Bay Area and arraigned along with 19 of 26 other defendants charged in the criminal complaint.
Yee represents Senate District 8, which includes the western half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County. He declared his candidacy for secretary of state in 2012 when his term in the state senate was up, and he was on the ballot for November’s election.
The complaint unsealed today alleges that between 2012 and 2014, Yee offered to use his office to do favors for undercover FBI agents in exchange for money that would fund his Secretary of State campaign.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, one instance of such an offer happened after Yee lost the November 2011 election for mayor of San Francisco.
In an effort to retire at least $70,000 in debt accrued during the campaign, authorities say Yee agreed to help push a contract under consideration with the state Department of Public Health.
He allegedly called a manager at the department, and sent an official letter in support of the contract, which was to benefit an undercover FBI agent. In exchange, authorities say Yee accepted a $10,000 campaign donation.
Also arrested this morning was Chow, the president of the Supreme Lodge of Chinese Free Masons in San Francisco.
Chow was arrested in an FBI warrant served at the Ghee Kung Tong Supreme Lodge in San Francisco’s Chinatown, which houses the Chinese Freemasons of the World at 36 Spofford St., FBI spokesman Peter Lee said this morning.
Chow is facing charges of money laundering, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen property and conspiracy to traffic and trafficking in contraband cigarettes.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Chow’s criminal rap sheet dates back to the 1970s, and includes previous convictions for racketeering, drug trafficking, attempted murder, arson, robbery, gambling and extortion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said today that the charges against Yee stem from with an investigation that implanted an undercover agent into Chow’s organization and uncovered a pattern of alleged racketeering.
The agent was inducted into Chow’s organization, and introduced to Keith Jackson, a public relations consultant and former San Francisco school board president, who assisted in helping the agent acquire weapons illegally, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In helping the agent purchase weapons, Keith Jackson allegedly introduced him to his son, Brandon Jackson, and Marlon Sullivan. Eventually the agent met with their alleged weapons supplier, identified as Rinn Roeun, who according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office offered to commit a murder for a fee.
Keith Jackson also had a close relationship with Yee, and from at least May 2011 until now had helped him raise funds for his Secretary of State campaign, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
It was allegedly Keith Jackson who assisted in connecting the undercover agents to Yee who helped them acquire firearms in exchange for campaign donations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Keith Jackson was president of the San Francisco Board of Education from 1994-1998 and worked in public relations, including as a freelance consultant for Singer Associates until about seven years ago, according to Sam Singer of Singer Associates.
“He was a peaceful, bright, hardworking guy and we’re all shocked at the allegations against him,” Singer said today.
According to a biography previously posted on Singer Associates website, he also worked with San Francisco’s Solid Waste Management Program and was executive director of the San Francisco Black Chamber of Commerce and the Hunters Point Boys and Girls Club.
Chow, in contrast, has a lengthy criminal history. By age 16 he was the leader of 30 underlings collecting money from gambling dens in Hong Kong. After coming to the U.S., he organized the Hop Sing Tong to collect money from gambling dens in San Francisco.
He was arrested on robbery charges in 1978, paroled in 1985, but quickly returned to crime and was sent back to prison.
He was convicted of six gun charges in federal court in 1995 and sentenced to 23 years in prison. He was the leader of a criminal faction of the San Francisco group called the Hop Sing Tong, which started as a national business association of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century.
Chow testified in the 2002 trial of Peter “Uncle” Chong that he was Chong’s right-hand man when Chong was head of the Wo Hop To criminal organization after Chow’s Hop Sing Tong gang merged with Chong’s to take over Chinatown’s criminal activity in 1990.
Scott Morris/Jules Bernstein/Aimee Lewis Strain, Bay City News