An honorary member of the Chinatown crime organization Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow allegedly headed, who testified he was ordered by Chow to help plot a 2006 killing, was picked apart by defense counsel on Thursday for his numerous falsehoods, drug dealing and violent history.
Kongphet “Fat Joe” Chanthavong, who sold cocaine, crack and grew marijuana in a number of houses across the Bay Area, was questioned in Judge Charles Breyer’s federal courtroom by Chow’s lawyer Tony Serra.
The at-times aggressive questioning appeared to paint Chanthavong, who has made a plea agreement with the prosecution, as an untrustworthy career criminal who has lied numerous times to police and was testifying now only to save his skin.
“So, isn’t it in your motivation to please the government?” Serra asked. “Isn’t that what this is all about?”
“Yes,” replied Chanthavong.
“You are desperate?” Serra asked. “You will say anything because you’re desperate.”
While Chanthavong said he hopes he gets leniency, he also said there was another reason he agreed to testify.
“I did it because I was pissed off. I was lied to. I was betrayed,” Chanthavong said.
According to Chanthavong, Chow, 55, had vouched for an undercover FBI agent posing as an East Coast mobster — to whom Chanthavong then sold guns and drugs. The agent’s alias was David Jordan.
“I felt like I was getting thrown under the bus, where I was expendable,” Chanthavong said, explaining that it seemed as if Chow was using him to lure Jordan to see if he was an undercover agent.
Still, Serra cast Chanthavong as an outsider who knew little information in a Chinese-dominated gang. Chanthavong didn’t speak Cantonese, and Serra read Chanthavong’s statement to police about Chinese people not trusting outsiders. Chanthavong is half Thai and half Laotian.
“If they don’t trust you because you don’t speak Chinese, you never really gained any close private intimacy, secrets from anyone,” said Serra.
Serra also touched on the number of times Chanthavong lied to law enforcement, including when he fabricated stories while eating with an undercover agent about a “black ops” team he ran.
“It shows that you are capable of creating lies at the spur of the moment,” Serra said. “So you’re a good liar, aren’t you?”
Chanthavong’s testimony, which lasted two days, also touched on his knowledge of Chow’s ordering two separate killings, neither of which was asked by Serra.
Chanthavong said he was part of the team plotting to kill Allen Leung, who was gunned down in 2006. Leung’s leadership role in the Ghee Kung Tong was taken over by Chow afterward.
Chanthavong testified he had a falling out with Chow after a fight broke out near a Japantown bar. Andy Li, another co-defendant, got into a fight with Chow, and Chanthavong broke it up.
“Fuck, he’s gonna kill me for this,” Chanthavong said he was later told by Li. “Andy still believed Chow was gonna kill him eventually.”
According to Chanthavong, Chow said Li would take care of Jimmy Kong, the dragon head of the Hop Sing Tong, who Chow tried to stop from heading the tong. Kong was killed in Mendocino County, and federal prosecutors say Chow ordered the killing.
The case against Chow stems from a series of law enforcement raids across the Bay Area in March 2014 that detained more than 20 people, including former State Sen. Leland Yee, former school board member Keith Jackson and Chow.
The arrests stemmed from a federal indictment alleging, among other things, that Chow headed an organized gang outfit in Chinatown — Ghee Kung Tong — and that Yee and Jackson committed a series of crimes to further Yee’s political ambitions. Yee and Jackson have since pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges. Chow faces additional charges stemming from allegedly ordering the two killings.