Chow denies alleged murder confession, claims prosecution transcript of recording is incorrect

Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, at a ceremony inside the Ghee Kung Tong, which he headed as its dragon head. Chow was made head of the fraternal organization in 2006. (Courtesy/Chow's legal team)

Alleged Chinatown crime lord Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow maintained his innocence on murder and racketeering charges Wednesday, with what his attorney described as “vigor and passion” down to the last second of his third day spent on the stand in federal court.

Among Wednesday’s highlights Chow, 56, was grilled by prosecutor William Frentzen about a recorded conversation between the defendant and an undercover FBI agent. The U.S. Attorney’s Office claims the defendant confessed in that conversation to ordering the murder of “Allen Leung, former leader of the fraternal organization Gee Kung Tong.

Chow contended no such confession was made. Chow claimed the transcription of that conversation was incorrect, and that he never said the name “Allen Leung” — and instead said the words “I learned.”

Under cross-examination, Chow said during that conversation he was talking about his crime-filled past when he said, “If people fuck around with me, you’re gone.”

Frentzen then fired back: “Who’d you kill, Mr. Chow?”

“No one,” Chow replied.

“Then who’s gone?” asked Frentzen.

“It’s just an expression,” Chow said.

The dramatic exchange concluded Chow’s nearly three days of court testimony defending himself against the charges stemming from his March 2014 arrest, which followed a wide-ranging FBI operation.

That law enforcement action netted more than two dozen other defendants, including former state Sen. Leland Yee.

Chow reiterated Wednesday he had no involvement in Leung’s murder. Leung was shot dead inside his Jackson Street business in 2006. He also again denied involvement in the murder of Jimmy Tat Kong, an alleged gangster found dead in a minivan in rural Mendocino County in 2013.

Chow, who has served multiple stints in prison throughout a gang-filled and high-profile crime life he says began at age 8 in Hong Kong, testified earlier this week that after his most recent release from prison in 2003 he vowed never to commit a crime again.

Recorded conversations with David Jordan, the FBI agent, involving alleged criminal activity, were played again for Chow in court Wednesday, after he spent much of his cross-examination Tuesday denying that he knew of any criminal activity Jordan was participating in at the time.

Chow said when he “received” money for helping Jordan and Jimmy Chen, another undercover FBI agent, sell cigarettes and alcohol, he was told that Jordan’s family owned the liquor company and was unaware that the cigarettes didn’t have a tax stamp.

Only later, Chow claimed, did he find out the money he “received” was from illegal activities.

Frentzen, the prosecutor, played audio recordings Wednesday that allegedly show Chow was aware he accepted money from Jordan from illegal sales of alcohol and cigarettes.

“He the one that pushed me to the crime, not me,” Chow said. “I received the money, I didn’t take the money.”

Chow’s defense attorney Tony Serra told reporters during Wednesday’s lunch break that Frentzen’s line of questioning came off as “confrontational.” Serra said his client has “been cut off, he’s been harassed; the prosecution asks the same questions over and over again.”

Serra added, “What do they got? ‘Oh, you took money, over and over again.’ [It was] not for criminal activity. Wherein [Chow] knew what was occurring, i.e. the cigarettes and the liquor, he believed strongly, at least for a longish time, that it was all legal.”

Chow’s girlfriend Alicia Lo also took the stand Wednesday, testifying that she met Chow in 2008 and they went to restaurants, bars, clubs and events together, most of which she paid for because Chow “just really never had money to go do something like that on his own.”

Prosecutors played audio recordings allegedly depicting Lo talking with Jordan and Chen, the FBI agents. Lo said Jordan and Chen “were fans of his from watching him on TV” and that they were interested in the book Chow was writing at the time.

“He met with anybody who said they’d be willing to help with his project,” Lo said of Chow.

In one audio recording, Lo allegedly asks one FBI agent about “his business,” and in another they allegedly talk about triads, which are crime organizations.

Also Wednesday, Serra said he intends to file a motion for a mistrial based on what the defense contends is a “manifestation of judicial bias” unrelated to Chow’s testimony. The motion stems from when Serra’s colleague, Curtis Briggs, was cross examining an undercover officer.

“Curtis Briggs, from my perspective, was treated very unevenly by the court, and almost sending an implied signal to the jury that somehow we were asking forbidden questions,” Serra told reporters. “We don’t expect [the judge] will grant it but we expect should there ever be a conviction it certainly would be a strong appellate issue.”

The trial is expected to resume Monday.

ldudnick@sfexaminer.com

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