Chow trial political fallout: Looking back at the ‘Shrimp Boy’ saga

On Friday, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, who has a shaved head and a dark pencil moustache, greeted his legal team with handshakes and an embrace in the case of lead attorney Tony Serra.

This was minutes before the jury’s verdict was read to a packed court.

Chow was found guilty on all counts, ending one chapter in the case that began in March 2014, with federal raids that detained more than 20 people including former State Sen. Leland Yee and Chow.

“This has been a long trial,” Judge Charles Breyer said after reading the verdict.

That wasn’t the half of it.

The case was centered on an investigation launched by the FBI, which infiltrated the organization Chow headed: the Ghee Kung Tong. But from the start, the Yee’s arrest gave the case political dimensions that only grew as it dragged on.

The trial, which didn’t begin until November 2015, was preceded by everything from allegations that Mayor Ed Lee, in a pay-to-play scheme, took money from undercover FBI agents in their wide-netted investigation, to allegations of wrongdoing hurled at San Francisco’s black leaders and a prosecutor in Alameda County, among others.

Case filings showed that the FBI’s investigation spread from Chow to Yee and up the political food chain to Lee.

From the start of the case, Judge Breyer attempted to keep the names of people caught up in the investigation from the public when he granted a gag order in the case.

Filings alleged that Lee’s underlings laundered campaign funds from an undercover FBI agent. They also alleged that Sharmin Bock, who ran for district attorney in 2011, also laundered campaign funds. She was later cleared.

It seemed that few were left out of the filings, which were often transcripts of the wires being used by FBI agents. Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana was even approached at one point.

Amos Brown, the head of The City’s NAACP, was alleged in the wiretaps to have taken free services from city officials on his house, and San Francisco Board of Supervisor President London Breed was alleged to have taken free gift cards from a political insider.

All denied the allegations.

Then there was the investigation itself, which involved several undercover FBI agents, one claiming to be an East Coast mafioso. Another undercover agent was taken off the case for financial misconduct.

Additionally, a San Francisco Sheriff’s deputy was investigated for his relationship with one of the case’s defendants. That investigation is pending.

The trial, itself, also metamorphosed over time.

Before Chow’s trial, which has been separated from the other defendants, Yee and former school board president Keith Jackson pleaded guilty. Then, right before Chow’s trial opened, murder and murder conspiracy charges were tacked onto Chow’s case.

Chow, who has said he plans to appeal Friday’s ruling, is set for sentencing on March 23.

Political players in the case

Leland Yee: Former State Sen. who was arrested along with Chow in 2014 and faced gun-running and racketeering charges, pleaded guilty to one racketeering charge last July as part of a plea deal. He was alleged to have traded political favors for campaign donations. Yee was California’s first Chinese American state senator.

Keith Jackson: A former school board president, and political consultant for Yee, Jackson introduced Yee to Chow who requested and received recognition from the state for his community work. Jackson pleaded guilty to racketeering along with his son Brandon Jackson and Marlon Sullivan.

Raymond Chow: AKA “Shrimp Boy,” Chow was born in China and came to San Francisco as a child. Chow, 56, was convicted of ordering the death of two rivals and for his alleged leadership of a Chinatown-based criminal gang. He is a self described former gangster who says he turned his life around after being released from prison in 2003 after testifying for federal authorities. Chow survived a famously bloody Chinatown gang war shooting called the Golden Dragon Massacre in 1977. In 1995 he was convicted of gun-related charges and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. In 2006 he became the dragon head of the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinatown fraternal organization. The FBI says the organization has two faces: one criminal the other legitimate.

Chow has been under the watchful eye of the FBI since his release, and was the subject of a year’s long investigation

London Breed: In the case of the Board of Supervisors President, according to the filing, Derf Butler, a politically connected businessman who worked for Yee with Jackson, told an FBI source that he “pays Supervisor Breed with untraceable debit cards for clothing and trips in exchange for advantages on contracts in San Francisco.”

Amos Brown: The head of The City’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Brown was named in filings which alleged his house was fixed in exchange for some unsaid favor from former Housing Authority head Henry Alvarez. He denied the allegation.

Sharmin Bock: A former district attorney candidate and Alameda County prosecutor was put on administrative leave after allegations arose from the Chow case that she committed campaign financing fraud. She was later cleared of such allegations by her employer and put back to work.

Sululagi Palega: Nearly 21 years after his son was shot and killed, court filings from the attorneys of Chow alleging Palega Sr. sold a gun to an undercover FBI agent and promised to sell more guns in the future. Palega is the manager of the Muni Transit Assistance Program for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Ed Lee:
Lee’s name has swirled around the case since when early on stories emerged that indicated he took funds from undercover FBI agents. While he skirted any direct roll in the case and was never indicted, the Mayor’s campaign has denied any wrongdoing in the campaign donation allegations.

Zula Jones: Retired Human Rights Commission Employee and long-time Lee alley, Jones was caught on an FBI wiretap discussing how to illegally break up campaign donations over the $500 limit. “You got to pay to play here,” she said, according to the filings.

Nazly Mohajer: A former Human Rights Commissioner and Lee campaign was caught on FBI wiretaps working with Jones to break up large campaign donations.


Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeinkCrimeRaymond ChowShrimp Boy

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