As details of state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged crimes trickled out, advocates associated with gun-rights groups jumped on the possible ironies.
An affidavit filed in federal court in San Francisco by FBI Special Agent Emmanuel V. Pascua said there was probable cause to believe that Yee had conducted various crimes, such as engaging in a conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and illegally import firearms.
Yet Yee, a prominent figure in California’s Democratic legislative majority, had crusaded against guns and violent video games for years.
The criminal complaint revealed Wednesday stated that Yee sought donations in return for connecting an Italian gangster from New Jersey with an international arms dealer. The gangster was actually an undercover federal agent, the complaint said.
The complaint said Yee talked tough about having shady contacts who could obtain automatic weapons.
“Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money,” the state senator said, according to the complaint. “Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods.”
The complaint says Yee described his approach to arms dealing as “agnostic.”
“People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don’t care. People need certain things,” Yee said, according to the complaint.
Later Wednesday, the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms issued a statement ripping the 65-year-old San Francisco Democrat.
“If these allegations are true, Sen. Yee is easily the biggest hypocrite on gun control to walk the halls of the capitol in Sacramento, if not the entire United States,” said the group’s chairman Alan Gottlieb.
“It is hard to fathom this kind of activity on a scale as massive as these court documents allege. If Sen. Yee and his fellow defendants are convicted, they’re going to wind up in one of the biggest gun-free zones in the country, a federal prison.”
Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for the NRA, said Yee was a hypocrite.
“This poster boy for gun control is a scumbag,” he said.
Yee was scheduled to be honored last week by the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, according to a statement on Yee’s website, which says the state Senator “has authored numerous bills designed to make government more transparent.”
Yee is the recipient of several similar journalism awards, the statement said, including the Freedom of Information Award by the California Newspaper Publishers Assn.
“State Senator Leland Yee of San Francisco will receive the Public Official Award for his courage to oppose his own Democratic Party leaders and the governor in 2013 with public criticism of efforts to weaken the California Public Records Act by loosening disclosure requirements for local governments,” the SPJ chapter’s website said.
But on Wednesday, Yee’s press secretary, Dan Lieberman, told The Times that his office would not comment on the FBI raids.
Yee was taken into custody in San Francisco on Wednesday and was seen being loaded into an unmarked law enforcement vehicle under an umbrella, his wrists handcuffed behind his back. He was later released on $500,000 bond after surrendering his passport.
His arrest was part of a sweeping sting that unfolded in the fog and rain Wednesday morning as hundreds of local and federal law enforcement agents descended simultaneously on numerous locations.
The targets also included Yee’s Sacramento office and three-story home in San Francisco. The first Chinese American elected to the state Senate, Yee was a leading candidate in the race to become California’s next secretary of state.
Also arrested was a man authorities describe as a gangster named Raymond Chow, known as “Shrimp Boy.” After spending stints in jail, Chow insisted that he had gone straight and had been honored for his volunteer work.
But the indictment said that Chow, 54, whose criminal history includes racketeering and robbery, has a position of “supreme authority” in the Triad, an international organized crime group.
Chow is described as a “judge” in the organization -- if one member of the group kills another, it’s up to Chow to determine whether the killing was justified.
Also charged was Keith Jackson, 49, a prominent political consultant who has worked to raise money for Yee’s political campaigns. It was Jackson, according to the federal complaint, who brokered some of the introductions between Yee and prospective donors who turned out to be undercover FBI agents.
Among Yee’s alleged actions, according to the complaint: Seeking a proclamation in exchange for a $6,800 donation to one of his campaigns -- paid for by an undercover FBI agent -- and brokering a meeting between a prospective campaign donor and state legislators who had influence over medical marijuana legislation. That meeting also came in exchange for cash campaign donations that far exceeded legal limits — and were paid for by the FBI, according to the indictment.
All told, 26 people were identified as having violated federal statutes in the complaint. They were accused of participating in a free-ranging criminal ring that dabbled in a spectrum of activities, including illegal marijuana “grows” and a scheme to transport stolen liquor to China.
[For the record, 11:37 a.m. PDT March 27: An earlier version of the headline on this post incorrectly spelled state Sen. Leland Yee’s last name as Lee.]