It could be a mob movie trailer voiceover: "In a world ... where a politician sells his influence to a Chinatown gangster and offers to broker a multimillion-dollar weapons deal, an FBI operative goes undercover to expose them all."
But it's not a movie: It's the reality described in an affidavit outlining allegations against Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who's now ensnared in an FBI corruption sting. The operation took undercover agents deep into a Chinatown organized crime gang run by self-described reformed gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.
A 137-page affidavit that was submitted to the court to back up weapons, bribery, money laundering and other charges against Yee, Chow and two dozen others was made public Wednesday after their arrests.
It has details you'd expect of a mob thriller: murder for hire, gun running, marijuana farming, truckloads of contraband cigarettes and stolen liquor and political pay-for-play. The story is stranger still given the political corruption target. Yee holds a doctorate in child psychology and has held elected posts on the San Francisco school board and Board of Supervisors, and has sat in both the California Assembly and Senate. In the affidavit, he is described once as "Uncle Leland."
We have a round-up of some of the strangest moments from the testimony below. You can read the full affidavit here.
8 highlights in the sworn affidavit:
- Yee allegedly offers to connect the FBI's undercover operative (who claims to be in an East Coast mafia family) with a weapons dealer. The dealer claimed to have contact with Muslim dissidents in the Philippines who can sell $2 million worth of that country's military weapons, including shoulder-mounted missile launchers. Yee's response: "Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money."
- Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow claims to be the "Dragonhead" of Chee King Tong, described as a fraternal organization that fronts for an organized crime group in San Francisco's Chinatown, the affidavit says. Chow tells the FBI's undercover operative that he can approve killings by group members. He's also identified as a top player in an international organized crime group known as a triad.
- Ex-con Chow and Yee's campaign consultant Keith Jackson allegedly arranged to have a state Senate proclamation presented to Chow's group. The cost? Just $6,800 in donations to one of Yee's campaign committees. The ex-fugitive Chow also wanted to pay Yee to use his influence to have his bracelet monitor removed.
- Yee allegedly confesses to the FBI's undercover fake mafioso that he is unhappy in his life as a high ranking California politician, and that, at age 65, he just wants to run off and hide in the Philippines. Yee to undercover agent: "There is a part of me that wants to be just like you...Just be a free agent out there."
- Yee promises to appoint the FBI's fake mafioso to a Russian trade delegation once he wins his election. The undercover promises to pay Yee hundreds of thousands of dollars via the weapons deal. Yee realizes he's taking a risk, mentioning the federal corruption and bribery charges against fellow Sen. Ron Calderon and how it involved too many people. Yee: "I don't want to go to jail."
- The FBI's undercover fake mafioso asks a Chow associate what it would cost to have somebody killed. Chow's associate quotes him $10,000, and the undercover counters with an offer of $25,000. The agent arranged for the associate to get a look at another undercover agent who was masquerading as the intended victim. The murder proposal was eventually cancelled.
- The FBI's undercover fake mafioso laundered millions of dollars in illegal proceeds from marijuana sales and other crimes for Chow's gang associates. He also gets in on deals to ship stolen liquor to China. The FBI later raids a few indoor pot farms run by Chow's associates.
- Yee allegedly accepted $21,000 to introduce an Arizona medical marijuana businessman (an FBI undercover agent) to a senator who had influence over California's medical marijuana laws. The affidavit says the agent put $11,000 in an envelope placed on a table before Yee but Yee wouldn't touch it, ordering political consultant Jackson to pick it up.
Yee could serve up to 20 years in prison if convicted of the crimes described in the affidavit.