Gang leader in San Francisco found guilty

An FBI officer removing evidence from the Ghee Kung Tong building in San Francisco's Chinatown in a raid in 2014 that netted several people including Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.
An FBI officer removing evidence from the Ghee Kung Tong building in San Francisco's Chinatown in a raid in 2014 that netted several people including Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO • San Francisco gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow has been found guilty on dozens of charges, including ordering the murder of a Chinatown rival, a US Department of Justice spokesman said.

A federal jury found Chow, 56, guilty on all 162 counts after two days of deliberations, Mr Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the US Attorney's Office in San Francisco, said on Friday. Chow was said to have run a criminal organisation in the city that dealt in drugs and laundered money.

Mr Tony Serra, a lawyer for Chow, said his defence team was in a state of "pain and anguish" after the verdict, particularly because the US government relied on several witnesses who pleaded guilty to crimes themselves. "It was trial by snitch, and the jury somehow believed these snitches," he said.

Chow was accused of being the "dragonhead" of Chinatown's Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinese fraternal organisation that federal agencies suspect has a criminal component, according to an indictment.

Prosecutors contended that Chow ordered the 2006 murder of Ghee Kung Tong official Allen Leung in Mr Leung's import/export shop in a dispute over money, according to court filings.

During the trial, a prosecutor told jurors that Chow ordered Mr Leung's death and led other criminal activities "like something straight out of The Godfather".

Chow was also charged with conspiring to kill an alleged gang rival, Jim Tat Kong.

The prosecutors said he turned Ghee Kung Tong into a violent gang that trafficked in narcotics, stolen goods, bullet-proof vests and guns, reported The Los Angeles Times.

The charges included 125 counts of money laundering, conspiring to deal in illegal sales of goods, aiding and abetting the laundering of proceeds from narcotic sales and engaging in illegal cigarette sales.

In addition to witnesses, the government played several recorded conversations for the jury in which Chow accepted money from an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent for purported illegal activity.

The jury heard the testimony of "Dave Jordan", the alias used by the FBI agent, who posed as an East Coast businessman with mob ties and as a devoted admirer of Chow, collected during three years of secretly recorded conversations, including recordings in which Chow appeared to express hostility towards his rivals, reported SFGate, the sister website of the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the witness stand, Chow said he had previously been involved with a gang and dealt in drugs, but claimed he had since renounced crime. He also rejected the allegation that he had killed Mr Leung, asserting: "I am innocent on that. "

He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23 and faces a mandatory life sentence for the murder conviction. He also faces additional time for the other charges, the US Attorney's Office said.

Chow was arrested in 2014 with several others, including Leland Yee, a former Democratic state senator who has pleaded guilty to racketeering.

Chow is a long-time fixture in San Francisco's Chinatown. In 2000, he testified against his former gang and served a prison sentence.

His lawyers have said that he reformed after his release from prison, but prosecutors contend that he assumed power in Chinatown and directed criminal activity.

Mr Serra said he expected an appeal against the verdict, and that Chow was calm. "His words to me were, in essence, 'We'll win on the second round'," Mr Serra said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 10, 2016, with the headline 'Gang leader in San Francisco found guilty'. Print Edition | Subscribe