L.A. Now

Until his arrest, 'Shrimp Boy' considered an 'inspiration'

In the years after his release from prison, Raymond Chow insisted he had gone straight and tried to prove it by posting photos with celebrities and endorsements from politicians across his Facebook profile.

The profile shows the organized crime figure known as “Shrimp Boy” rubbing shoulders with the likes of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, NFL football player Vernon Davis and Randy Jackson of the Jackson Five.

But even by Chow’s standards for mingling with the famous and powerful, the summer of 2012 was a good one for Shrimp Boy.

According to posts he wrote on his Facebook timeline, he gave multiple speeches in June, including one to a middle school he hoped would “help the kids stay positive and out of trouble.”

In July, Chow was honored as a “Change Agent” at an annual “In the Trenches” awards ceremony in San Francisco.

He later posted photos of honorary certificates he received from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. Another photo showed he had been recognized in a letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“Thank you for your tireless dedication to providing outstanding service to the residents of San Francisco,” Lee wrote.

“Your efforts to turn your life around and help others do the same has been an inspiration to us all,” said Ammiano.

Feinstein wrote: “Serving as an inspiration and a role model to others, you have had a great impact on those in need of guidance.”

But a criminal complaint released Wednesday by federal authorities portrays Chow’s public displays of going straight as nothing more than a façade.

He was arrested in a corruption investigation along with state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and two dozen of their alleged associates. Chow faces money laundering charges.

Chow’s “Change Agent” award came from the Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services, which works with seniors and ex-offenders.

The group’s executive director, Cathy Davis, said she now feels tricked by Chow, and worries about the effect on the annual event recognizing people who have turned their lives around.

“He really made a bad name for a lot of people we try to honor,” Davis said of Chow's arrest.

She added, “It’s very sad he was playing this game with a lot of people.”

Ammiano released a statement saying he issued a certificate to Chow after he was honored by the Bayview organization.

“The group acknowledged Chow’s efforts at reform and helping others,” he said. “That is all there is to it.”

To those who have long kept an eye on the Bay Area criminal underworld, the arrest came as little surprise. Chow has been in and out of prison for his roles in the Chinatown underworld since the mid-1970s.

The FBI had been monitoring Chow closely with wiretaps, and in 1992, he and 19 associates were charged with racketeering. He was convicted on gun charges and sentenced to more than 23 years in prison.

Chow was released in 2003.

But law enforcement monitored him closely and concluded that he was still associated with Asian gangs.

“You could always count on one thing, that he was up to something no good,” said Ignatius Chinn, a former California Department of Justice agent who spent two years investigating Chow prior to his 1995 conviction.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Chinn said Chow “was used to doing things his own way and getting things his own way. … He was always an organizer; he was always a person who was behind the scenes.”

Asked if he believed Chow had gone straight in recent years, Chinn said, “One word would answer that – no.”


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