Chow Claims Selective Prosecution; Lee, Breed Deny Allegations

Chinatown association leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow asked a federal court in San Francisco today to dismiss racketeering and organized-crime charges against him on the grounds that he was the target of an alleged “politically tainted selective prosecution.”

Chow, 55, the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association in San Francisco’s Chinatown, made the claim in a court filing seeking either dismissal of his indictment or the right to gather additional evidence on his contention.

U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero will hold a hearing on the request on Aug. 21.

Chow claims the FBI and prosecutors targeted him because of “his outspoken and open dialogue relating to past criminal activity and ties and his increasing legitimate political influence,” while failing to go after other public figures, including Mayor Ed Lee, whose names surfaced in the multi-year FBI probe.

The brief alleges that Lee received $20,000 from an undercover agent who was posing as a Georgia businessman in 2012 in contributions to retire his 2011 mayoral campaign debt.

The allegations that Lee received the contributions previously arose in other court filings and news reports last year.

P.J. Johnston, a spokesman for Lee’s current reelection campaign, said, “We have reviewed today’s filing. While it appears others may have tried to engage or ensnare Mayor Lee and any number of other people in their own wrongdoing, there’s absolutely nothing in today’s filing by Raymond Chow’s attorneys that suggests that Mayor Lee himself or his 2011 campaign did anything wrong or inappropriate.

“As we have stated previously, Mayor Lee’s campaign is committed to following the letter and spirit of all campaign finance laws. If and when the Mayor’s campaign receives specific information from the government about any questionable contributions, we will take immediate and appropriate actions,” Johnston said in a statement.

Chow is one of 29 people charged last year in a lengthy indictment that included both organized-crime charges against Chow and others and political corruption charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and political consultant Keith Jackson.

Yee and Jackson both pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on July 1 to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy to receive campaign contributions in exchange for political favors by Yee.

The contributions were for either Yee’s debt for his unsuccessful mayoral run against Lee in 2011 or his campaign for secretary of state, which he dropped out of after being arrested last year.

Yee and Jackson are due to be sentenced by Breyer on Oct. 21.

Chow and seven other defendants are due to go on trial in Breyer’s court on Nov. 2, following jury selection beginning Oct. 19.

The charges against Chow and others include organized-crime racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen liquor, conspiracy to traffic in contraband cigarettes and money laundering of the proceeds. The supposedly stolen and contraband goods were supplied or offered by undercover FBI agents.

Prosecutors allege the organized-crime enterprise was carried out by a criminal faction of the Chee Kung Tong, a fraternal association formed to aid Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans.

Chow, who is in pretrial custody without bail, was previously convicted of racketeering and gun charges and admitted to having been a gang member. He and his attorneys maintain he turned his life around after being released from prison in 2003 and has devoted himself to community service through the Chee Kung Tong.

The brief alleges that Chow and others were targeted for their perceived political allegiances and association with the Chee Kung Tong, “while others were not indicted due to their political affiliations, potential of disruptive fallout, social connections and more.”

The supporting documents filed with the brief include a series of short excerpts of undated statements by unidentified FBI agents that were made, according to Chow’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, in wiretap applications.

One statement alleges that on April 6, 2012, Lee met with two undercover agents posing as businessmen, a confidential informant posing as a developer, former Human Rights Commission member Nazly Mohajer and former commission compliance officer Zula Jones. Jackson attended the beginning of the meeting, according to the statement.

One agent was introduced as a person who raised $10,000 to help pay Lee’s campaign debt and the other as an entrepreneur interested in building senior assisted living facilities, according to the statement.

The statement says, “During the private meeting, which lasted 20 to 25 minutes, Mayor Lee and (the undercover contributor) talked about bringing private business interests and development into San Francisco.”

Mohajer allegedly asked the undercover agent afterwards whether he was planning “to do another $10,000 later,” which would be broken into smaller amounts, and allegedly said, “You can never talk to anybody about this.”

The excerpts do not include any allegations that anything came of that meeting.

Another FBI statement in the series alleges that a year later, in a telephone conversation between Jackson and Mohajer on April 25, 2013, “Mohajer asked if Lee came through for Jackson, and Jackson responded, ‘No, he ain’t come through for nobody.'”

Another excerpt alleges that San Francisco businessman Derf Butler “has discussed with (an informant) that he pays Supervisor (London) Breed with untraceable debit cards for clothing and trips in exchange for favors on contracts in San Francisco.”

Breed responded in a statement, “Today, the attorneys for a man who’s facing multiple felony charges tried get him off the hook by making baseless allegations against many other people, including a number of local African-American leaders.”

Briggs, Chow’s lawyer, said today that the allegedly selective prosecution “appears to be pretty blatant” and said, “There’s no way you can function as a society with that kind of favoritism.”

U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Abraham Simmons declined to comment, saying that prosecutors will respond in future filings.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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