California State Senator Leland Yee (D) was arrested this week in a massive FBI raid that included not just the senator, but over two dozen people involved in organized crime in the San Francisco area.
The Golden State just can't seem to catch a break.
The criminal complaint
reads like a crime novel. An undercover FBI agent masquerading as East Coast mafia was able to infiltrate the Chee Kung Tong organization based in San Francisco. According to the complaint, Chee Kung Tong apparently has its "legitimate" side as a community organization, which they use to mask their many criminal enterprises. Throughout the course of the investigation, FBI agents were able to uncover money laundering operations, nationwide drug trafficking (including marijuana and cocaine), sales of illegal cigarettes and stolen liquor, illegal firearms sales, and murder for hire. Chee Kung Tong has ties to the Chinese Triad organized crime syndicate.
Criminal charges in the complaint range from low-level enforcers, all the way up to Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, the head of Chee Kung Tong, and even further up into the California State Senate.
The complaint tells how an undercover FBI agent was able to work his way up in Chee Kung Tong, eventually coming into contact with San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson, a fundraiser for Senator Yee. Jackson illegally sold firearms to the agent, and also attempted to get the agent to help his son Brandon set up cocaine trafficking operations (Brandon was also party to at least one of the murder-for-hire plots, and was already involved in marijuana trafficking).
The complaint goes on to describe how Keith Jackson solicited campaign donations from the undercover agent on Senator Yee's behalf (including asking for donations that exceeded legal limits), first to defray debt from the Senator's failed campaign for Mayor in San Francisco, and later for his current campaign for California Secretary of State. Over time, federal agents found that Senator Yee was not only willing to exchange favors (in the form of both legislative favors and promises of government contracts) for campaign donations, but would even facilitate illegal arms deals in exchange for campaign cash.
In the end, Yee introduced the undercover agent to an international weapons trafficker ' taking campaign donations as his fee for the introduction. Yee seemed to have no issue with the agent's desire to purchase two million dollars' worth of fully automatic firearms and shoulder-fired missiles (to start), other than his worry that moving too quickly could attract attention from law enforcement. To make it even more interesting, Yee's contact in the arms trafficking business was involved in selling arms to hardline militant Islamic groups in the Philippines, which are trying to overthrow the Philippine government. According to the criminal complaint, Yee's goal was not just to facilitate a one-time arms deal, but was to set up a relationship between the New Jersey mafia and his arms trafficking cohorts, to allow the New Jersey mob not only to bring automatic rifles and shoulder-fired missiles into the United States, but to set up a trafficking ring to sell even more of those weapons for a profit in Africa. To top things off, Yee has been one of the top anti-gun Democrats in the United States. Now we know that law-abiding Californians need to own more guns so we can protect ourselves from the kind of people Leland Yee associates with.
There are also references in the criminal complaint showing that Senator Yee has multiple contacts in the arms trafficking world ' the first deal he tried to broker fell through because the arms dealer couldn't make it to San Francisco, so Yee reached out to another contact, and made allusions to the fact that he had knew even more people in the gunrunning business.
And while all of the arms trafficking drama was going on, other undercover agents were getting even more dirt on Yee, as he used his influence to steer state contracts and grants toward a fake company, all in exchange for contributions to pay for Yee's campaign debt. Later on, Yee pushed a proclamation in support of Chee Kung Tong through the Senate, sending one of his staff members to the group's annual celebration dinner to present the proclamation ' this was in lieu of using his influence to try and get Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow's ankle monitor removed, which he thought would be too risky.
On a side note, Chow's Facebook page includes pictures of certificates of recognition from San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, and a letter of recognition from the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. Kind of makes you wonder how connected they might be similar criminal elements to those Senator Yee associates with.
Yee also took bribes ' again in the form of campaign donations - from yet another undercover FBI agent, this one posing as a businessman involved in medical marijuana - in exchange for Yee's efforts to legalize medical marijuana in California.
Senator Yee is innocent until proven guilty, but to say that the evidence put forward in the criminal complaint is damning is putting it mildly. FBI agents got the man on tape brokering gun deals and offering political favors in exchange for campaign donations.
For Californians, Yee's arrest is just the latest, albeit the most alarming, case of political corruption plaguing our state government. Yee is the third Democrat state senator to be brought up on corruption charges over the past year. State Senator Ron Calderon is out on a paid leave of absence as he awaits his trial for corruption, and State Senator Rod Wright was found guilty on eight felony counts ' yet Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and the Democrat majority have allowed them to stay in the Senate, even throwing their support behind felon Rod Wright when an effort was made by Republicans to remove him from the Senate. It is only with Yee's astounding charges that Steinberg and the Democrats finally demanded a resignation, and even that still depends on the good will of a corrupt scumbag. Instead of calling for his resignation, Steinberg should be holding a vote to eject Yee from the Senate, but let's face it: California Democrats have never been known for doing the right thing.
All of this begs a couple of questions;
First of all, if anti-gun Democrat Leland Yee was actively working with arms dealers, what should become of the anti-gun legislation he has authored over the years? After all, it could reasonably be argued that such legislation creates shortages in the California gun market, making sales by Yee's arms trafficking cohorts that much more profitable. At the least, it is clear that he didn't have Californian's safety in mind when he wrote the bills - it's more likely that his push for gun control was an attempt to keep attention away from his connections to arms dealers.
And if three California Senators have been brought up on corruption charges just over the past year, how many more criminals are there in the state government that haven't been caught yet? In all likelihood, trading money for political favors is all too common a practice in California, though with these recent arrests, catching the culprits will likely be all the more difficult.
Just hours ago, Leland Yee quit his campaign for California Secretary of State. Thank goodness the FBI moved in when they did ' the Secretary of State oversees the state's campaign finance accountability measures, as well as the state's elections.
Having a man as corrupt as Leland Yee in a position like that would have decades-long repercussions for the state.