Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was convicted Friday of racketeering, murder and other charges in a sprawling corruption case that rocked San Francisco’s Chinatown and the state’s political establishment.
A federal jury found Chow, 56, guilty on all 162 counts after two days of deliberations, said Abraham Simmons, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco.
The so-called dragonhead of a Chinatown fraternal organization went on trial in November after a lengthy investigation that cost millions in taxpayer dollars and swept up numerous people, including former Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in July. A half-dozen of Chow’s co-defendants pleaded guilty in the case in September.
For years, Chow was hailed by San Francisco leaders as a former criminal who had turned away from a life of crime. But the prosecution alleged that while he may have put on a good act as a gangster-turned-community-servant, behind the scenes of the fraternal organization that he controlled, Chow ran a criminal enterprise.
“This conviction represents a just and final end to Mr. Chow’s long-running and deadly criminal career,” San Francisco FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson said in a statement.
Chow’s attorneys said he would appeal and that the investigation was marred by misconduct by an undercover agent. The agent, the attorneys argued, instigated the crimes for which people were later arrested and forced money on Chow, often when he was drunk.
Defense attorney J. Tony Serra told The Times on Friday that the prosecution was built on questionable testimony from informants with no credibility who were “merely seeking to save their own skins.”
“We are frustrated, angry and anguished because we believe a great miscarriage of justice occurred today,” he said. “Welcome to snitch heaven in the federal court.”
Serra said Chow was disappointed by the verdict but confident about his appeal.
“He’s zen, he’s spiritual, he’s introspective, he’s meditative.... He actually comforted us,” Serra said.
Curtis Briggs, another attorney for Chow, said the defense was handicapped by veteran U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer, who presided over the trial. Briggs said the judge cut the defense witness list at the last minute — allowing Chow’s attorneys to call eight witnesses while the prosecution called 46. The judge also asked incriminating questions of Chow, who took the witness stand last month, Briggs said.
The trial, Briggs said, “was a disaster.”
Chow was accused of arranging the 2006 slaying of Allen Leung, the man who preceded him as the head of the Chinatown fraternal organization Ghee Kung Tong. Leung was gunned down by a masked assassin at his import-export business. Chow also was charged with conspiring to murder Jim Tat Kong, an alleged gang rival.
Prosecutors said Chow turned Ghee Kung Tong into a violent criminal group that trafficked in stolen goods, narcotics, bulletproof vests and guns.
The charges also included 125 counts of money laundering, aiding and abetting the laundering of proceeds of narcotics sales, conspiring to deal in illegal sales of goods (including 50 cases of Hennessy X.O and 27 cases of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Scotch) and engaging in the illegal sale of cigarettes.
On the witness stand, Chow said that he had previously dealt drugs and been involved with a gang, but later turned his life around and renounced crime.
He said that despite rumors in Chinatown that he had killed Leung, he wasn’t involved.
“I am innocent on that. That’s a fact,” he testified, according to the Associated Press.
He is scheduled to be sentenced March 23 and faces a mandatory life sentence for the murder conviction and additional time for the other charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.