State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and 19 other defendants appeared in court this afternoon to confront charges against them ranging from racketeering, gun-trafficking, and murder for hire.
The defendants -- including Keith Jackson, a San Francisco political consultant, and Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a longtime Chinatown gangster -- all arrived in civilian clothes while shackled at the wrist and waist.
By 3:30 p.m., only 12 of the defendants, including Jackson and Chow, had appeared before the judge to hear the charges against them. Yee, who as a legislator cracked down on guns, is now being charged with gun trafficking himself.
Yee, who was also charged with wire fraud, was released this afternoon on a $500,000 unsecured bond. He faces 16 years in prison. Yee will return to court on Monday at 9:30 a.m.According to the criminal complaint filed in San Francisco this week, Jackson operated a consulting business where he worked closely with Yee on his multiple campaigns, including his 2011 San Francisco mayoral campaign. The duo managed to solicit donations from undercover FBI Agents in excess of the $500 donation limit; at least one of those FBI agents, who was posing as a businessman, wrote Yee a $5,000 check to his mayoral campaign. After Yee lost, he faced $70,000 in campaign debt. He and Jackson solicited the same "business associates" to help pay that off, and in exchange, offered up "certain official acts." The purported corruption continued well into Yee's campaign for Secretary of State this year. According to the complaint, he continued tapping the undercover FBI agents for more money, and in exchange, he did them favors -- including facilitating a meeting with an arms dealer to traffic weapons through the Port of Newark in New Jersey. "During a meeting, Sen. Yee discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons [the undercover agent] was interested in buying and importing," the complaint states. To be specific, the deals allegedly involved selling Russian guns to Muslim rebels in the Philippines, the complaint states. An excerpt from the complaint: Hundreds of cops and FBI agents stormed businesses and homes in Chinatown this morning, including the offices of Gee King Tong Free Masons. Both Yee and Chow, who is now president of the Supreme Lodge of Chinese Freemasons of the world in San Francisco, were arrested during the police sweeps. News of the additional arrests trickled in throughout the day. Yee's Office has not released a comment at this time. Jackson is facing a slew of charges, including the conspiracy to distribute narcotics, dealing in firearms without a license, and murder for hire. He faces multiple decades in prison if convicted. Chow, who has a criminal history that includes racketeering, robbery, as well as drug and weapons charges, is awaiting an S-visa (visas issued to witnesses in criminal proceedings) and is being monitored by ICE with an ankle bracelet. He's being charged with money laundering, conspiracy to send and receive stolen property, and conspiracy to traffic contraband and cigarettes, among other things. Both Yee and Chow have a history of criminal activity (though of varying degrees). Chow sentenced to 25 years in prison for gun charges stemming from a 1992 racketeering arrest. He spent 11 years in prison and was released in 2003. Before that he had spent time in jail for a Chinatown robbery in 1978; in 1986 Chow was charged with 28 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, mayhem, ex con with fire arms. He served three years in prison. Yee, a longtime San Francisco politician, was arrested 14 years ago in Hawaii on suspicion of shoplifting a bottle of Tropical Blend Tan Magnifier Oil from a store. Before that, Yee was pulled over by San Francisco police who accused him of soliciting prostitutes on two different occasions in the city's Mission District. Yee denied all of this, telling SF Weekly: "They presume that people are driving around there looking for prostitutes, but there are people who use that street to go home." You can read all about Yee's series of ethical lapses in our SF Weekly cover story. Yee, a former San Francisco School Board member, lost his bid for San Francisco mayor, and is termed out in the state senate. He launched his campaign for Secretary of State this year touting his leadership in "increasing government transparency."