Twisted Tale of guns, Drugs and a State Senator
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Old 03-27-2014, 07:30 PM   #1
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Twisted tale of guns, drugs and a state senator

By the Editorial Board, Sacramento Bee
The arrest Wednesday of state Sen. Leland Yee on federal charges raises many questions. Chief among them: What is going on with the California Senate?

This makes the third senator to have been indicted or convicted of crimes this calendar year, though the latest charges are the most serious by far.

The affidavit implicating Yee outlines an intricate web that includes Chinatown organized crime figures; large-scale marijuana growing; Eastern European arms dealers engaged in money laundering; firearm, cigarette and liquor trafficking; murder for hire; and bookmaking , among other things. Yee, called “Uncle Leland” by conspirators, allegedly used his office to help the criminal enterprise.

San Franciscans must be relieved that they didn’t elect Yee as mayor in 2011. It’s fair to say, no matter the outcome of the case, Yee’s campaign for secretary of state is dead. That he was seeking the office that oversees elections and fundraising would be laughable, except there is nothing funny about the conspiracy described by the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco. Yee’s work on gun control legislation is ironic, too, given that he is implicated in gun running.

The charges facing Yee aren’t related to those of Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, who was indicted last month on charges of accepting bribes, which suggests that, rather than one or two aberrant senators, there’s a culture of corruption in the Capitol.

That at least has been the tone of public discourse. News of the arrest Wednesday morning set social media afire with comments that indicate deep mistrust of elected officials. This tweet by @CaliNorte650 exemplifies the cynicism: “The fact that you can’t be a decent human being & a politician at the same time shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone anymore.”
It’s disappointing, though not surprising, that many people assume all politicians are dirty. They aren’t. But it is important for authorities to throw the book hard at those who are.

In Yee’s case, the U.S. attorney is taking the lead because these are federal charges. But all prosecuting agencies ought to be keeping watch on public officials, including the state attorney general and the capital city’s own district attorney.

The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office doesn’t have a public integrity division. It does have a special investigations unit that includes white-collar crime as well as public corruption and other crimes. Anne Marie Schubert, Maggy Krell and Todd Leras are running in the June election to replace current DA Jan Scully. All three should be looking carefully at how they would take a prominent role in public corruption matters.

It certainly would not be out of the ordinary to do so. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, for example, has had a very active public integrity division for more than a decade. It was the agency that prosecuted one of Yee’s disgraced colleagues, Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills. Wright was found guilty by a jury in January of voter fraud, for living outside of his district, and of perjury, for lying about it.

Charges don’t automatically mean Yee is guilty. But the allegations underscore the need for the people’s prosecutors to be on watch.

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Old 03-27-2014, 07:33 PM   #2
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FBI STING ARRESTS YEE

26 accused of a plot with weapons, drugs, bribes

By Laurel Rosenhall and Jeremy B. White lrosenhall@sacbee.com

State Sen. Leland Yee was arraigned on seven charges of corruption and firearms trafficking Wednesday, swept up in a broad FBI sting involving more than two dozen people across the Bay Area suspected of selling drugs, smuggling guns and arranging murder for hire.

Yee was one of 26 people charged Monday in the operation, many of whom wore headsets to translate the San Francisco federal court proceedings into Cantonese. None of them entered pleas.

Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted. He was released on a $500,000 unsecured bond and must return to court Monday morning. When the judge asked if he understood the charges against him, Yee calmly replied “yes.”

In Sacramento, FBI agents searched Yee’s Capitol office and wheeled out carts loaded with packages, plastic tubs and duffel bags, the second such scene at the Capitol in just nine months. The FBI raided Sen. Ron Calderon’s office in June; he was indicted last month on federal corruption charges in what appears to be an unrelated case based in Los An geles.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg asked Yee to resign by Friday, saying he will strip him of all his committee assignments and move to suspend him if he doesn’t.
“Leave,” Steinberg said in a comment aimed at Yee during a meeting with reporters following the arrest. “Don’t burden your colleagues and this great institution with your troubles. Leave!”
Flanked by 16 of his fellow Democrats, Steinberg characterized the charges against Yee as “sickening” and “surreal,” comparing them to something out of a Hollywood movie. A federal affidavit released as part of the case referred to Yee as “a.k.a. Uncle Leland.”

The allegations against Yee reach back to his losing run for San Francisco mayor in 2011, when he worked with a political consultant named Keith Jackson who at one time served on the San Francisco Unified School District board. Jackson was also arraigned Monday on charges that include commissioning murder for hire and narcotics trafficking.

As Jackson was helping Yee raise money, the FBI affidavit says one of the people he asked to support the campaign turned out to be an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated a web of Asian gangs. Monday’s sweep also involved the arrest of the leader of a group known as Chee Kung Tong – Raymond Chow, a one-time gangster known as “Shrimp Boy” who had spent years in prison for gun trafficking.

An admitted former member of a San Francisco Chinatown gang, Chow was released after offering testimony on a former organized crime associate, Peter Chong, and publicly reinvented himself as a reformed ex-criminal intent on helping his community. He won an award for former convicts who have become assets to society, garnering plaudits from California elected officials.
The affidavit says Chow introduced an undercover agent to Jackson, who was working to help Yee pay off $70,000 in campaign debt from his unsuccessful mayor’s race. Unknowingly, Yee turned to the FBI for contributions to pay off the debt and launch a new campaign for secretary of state, the affidavit says, accepting $10,000 in cash from an undercover agent in the process.
The affidavit alleges a string of official actions Yee took in exchange for the money. It says he called a manager with the state Department of Public Health to urge the agency to give a contract to an agent posing as a software consultant who gave him $10,000. It says he wrote a Senate proclamation honoring the Chee Kung Tong group headed by Raymond Chow in exchange for a $6,800 contribution from another agent. It says he also introduced another agent posing as a medical marijuana businessman to two state legislators working on the issue in exchange for two contributions totaling $21,000
.
Another way Yee sought to raise money for his 2014 secretary of state campaign was by promising to help undercover agents obtain illegal guns from an international arms dealer, federal authorities allege. Authorities say Yee, who has promoted gun control legislation in the Senate, helped orchestrate illegal, transnational arms deals.
Yee touted his connection to an anonymous Filipino arms broker who had funneled guns to rebel groups in the Philippines and could source guns from Russia, the affidavit says. The affidavit quotes Yee as saying, “I have seen what he has done in the past on other products and this guy has the relationships” and describing an encounter with “armed guards with machine guns” during a visit to the Philippines.

“Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money,” the affidavit quotes Yee as saying. “Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods.”
Later, Yee shifted to a different dealer named Wilson Lim whose “associates in the Philippines were trying to overthrow the current government and needed money,” according to the affidavit. Yee participated in detailed discussions about transporting the guns back to the U.S. and talked about the violence and unrest engulfing parts of the Philippines, it says.
The same year the undercover agent got Yee to facilitate the illegal gun transaction, the senator carried a pair of gun control bills.

His measures would have strengthened registration requirements by expanding the definition of assault weapons (Senate Bill 43) and compelled the Department of Justice to study safe gun storage (SB 108).

Neither bill advanced as far as the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown. But in a statement accompanying a bill analysis, Yee spoke out about the risk of under-regulated guns.
“Unauthorized access to a firearm too often results in unintentional or self-inflicted gunshot wounds, or firearms being stolen to be used in future crimes,” Yee wrote.
That language contrasts sharply with statements the affidavit attributes to Yee, who allegedly told an undercover agent that an arms dealer “has things that you guys want” and cautioned that doing business with arms dealers is not for “the faint of heart.”
In a conversation about the arms deal in February, Yee allegedly told the undercover agent over dinner in San Francisco that he had to be careful because of the recent indictment of his Senate colleague, Ron Calderon.

“Senator Yee believed the other State Senator was wearing a ‘wire’ for the FBI,” the affidavit says. “Senator Yee thought the other State Senator was a classic example of involving too many people in illegal activities.”

Even as he engaged in the transactions, the affidavit says, Yee periodically complained that Jackson should not discuss how much he was willing to pay for certain acts, saying “talk like that is ‘pay to play.’ ”

“He also added that contributions could not be linked to any items, bills or amendments,” the affidavit says. Despite his cautions, the affidavit says Yee and Jackson “never walked away from quid pro quo requests” made by an undercover agent.

It was the latest in what’s been a bruising year for ethics in the state Capitol, which also saw Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, found guilty of eight felonies for lying about whether he lives in the district he represents. Democrats lost their two-thirds majority in the Senate after Wright and Calderon took paid leaves of absence.
Steinberg called a meeting of all Senate staff Wednesday afternoon to try to boost morale. They packed into a Capitol committee room, filling the seats and lining the walls.
“My main message to very dedicated public servants, the staff, was to hold your heads high,” Steinberg said. “It’s very easy – because I feel it
– to feel very down and to feel down about the institution.”

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall. Staff writers Peter Hecht and Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.


Randall Benton The Sacramento Bee

THE ARREST
State Sen. Leland Yee is arrested at his home in San Francisco and arraigned with 25 others in an FBI sting operation.
CAPITOL RAID
FBI agents search Yee’s Capitol office and wheel out carts loaded with packages, plastic tubs and duffel bags.
THE CHARGES
Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, faces seven charges: one count of conspiracy to traffic firearms without a license and six counts of corruption.
STEINBERG: “LEAVE”
In Sacramento, FBI agents search Yee’s Capitol office and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg asks Yee to resign, saying he will move to suspend him if he doesn’t.
VIDEO & GALLERY
To see a video of the FBI raid on Sen. Leland Yee’s office, and a photo gallery, go to www.sacbee.com/multimedia


John Green The Associated Press
Agents from the FBI and the IRS carry boxes Wednesday from a home in San Mateo. FBI Agent Greg Wuthrich said the raid was part of an investigation and arrest of state Sen. Leland Yee. Also accused are Chinese leader Raymond Chung and San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson.

Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com
An officer who was not allowed to be identified leaves with boxes from state Sen. Leland Yee‘s Capitol office after his arrest Wednesday.

Hector Amezcua hamezcua@sacbee.com
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, stresses that he wants Sen. Leland Yee to resign or be suspended by Friday. Yee has been arraigned on weapon and corruption charges after an undercover FBI investigation.

Special to the San Francisco Chronicle
Raymond “Shrimp Boy’’ Chow, who was indicted on racketeering charges in 1992, is accused in the FBI probe of Sen. Leland Yee.

Eric Risberg The Associated Press
FBI employees carry out out boxes after a search Wednesday of a Chinatown fraternal organization linked via contributions to Sen. Leland Yee.

SENATE LEGAL WOES
The state Senate has been rocked by allegations against three of its members.
Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills: Accused of lying about where he lived when he ran for the state Senate in 2008, he was found guilty of voter fraud and perjury by a Los Angeles County jury. Last month, he took a leave of absence.

Ron Calderon, D-Montebello: He was indicted last month on 24 counts related to accepting bribes. He took a leave of absence this month, knocking the Democrats out of their two-thirds majority.

Leland Yee, D-San Francisco: Arraigned Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco for corruption and conspiracy to traffic firearms. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, asked Yee to resign by Friday.
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Old 04-01-2014, 05:49 PM   #3
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Yee’s lawyer questions timing

ATTORNEY: DELAY IN CHARGES RAISES FAIRNESS ISSUE

By Laurel Rosenhall and Jim Miller lrosenhall@sacbee.com

Suspended state Sen. Leland Yee appeared in federal court Monday in San Francisco but did not enter a plea in the case that charges him with conspiring to illegally traffic weapons and taking bribes from undercover FBI agents seeking official action in the Capitol.

Yee remains free on a $500,000 unsecured bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for April 8.

After Monday’s appearance, Yee’s lawyer Paul DeMeester asked why it took until Wednesday for the government to file charges when it appeared the investigation of his client began in 2011.

“It raises fairness questions,” De-Meester told The Associated Press. “Is it fair to the public, is it fair to the senator that it took so long?”

DeMeester questioned why the FBI appeared to shift the focus of its probe from a cash-for-influence case to an investigation of alleged connections to international arms dealers.

“There’s a question of whether the government felt it didn’t have enough evidence on the campaign investigation, so it starts pushing on the arms trafficking,” DeMeester said.

Prosecutors want property the senator owns to be used as collateral to guarantee he appears at all court hearings. Federal prosecutors said they are close to accepting some property the senator owns but were still in negotiations with Yee and his lawyers, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, one of Yee’s former Senate colleagues went on Los Angeles radio Monday morning to float an idea for a Senate ethics ombudsman who could take tips of wrongdoing from staff members, lawmakers and others.

Sen. Richard Roth, a Riverside Democrat who chairs the Senate Legislative Ethics Committee, was responding to a raft of legal troubles to hit the upper house. Last month, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, was indicted on corruption charges. And in January, a Los Angeles County jury convicted state Sen. Rod Wright, D-Baldwin Hills, of lying about his residence when he ran for the Senate in 2008.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg announced Friday that the Senate will cancel one day of floor session and committee hearings and instead have an intensive, mandatory office-by-office review of Senate ethics policies.

Roth said his idea would build on that and reflects concerns that some people with knowledge of wrongdoing may be intimidated by the existing process of voicing concerns. Under Senate rules, people can make allegations of suspected violations of Senate standards of conduct. But the complaints must be in writing and be signed under penalty of perjury.

“It’s not as open a process, as free a process, as I would like to see,” Roth said. “We need to create a different system, where staff or other individuals, and legislators, are free to contact someone like an ombudsman.”

Roth, elected in 2012, said his office is starting to survey ethics procedures in other states.

His goal, he said, is to make sure “we have the best ethics program in the nation, period.”

Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916)
321-1083. Follow her on
Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.

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Old 04-01-2014, 06:03 PM   #4
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Well, of COURSE they want the best ethics program that money can buy.


Wait...what? No, that was not what I meant! Really!

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Old 04-01-2014, 06:49 PM   #5
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Is it wrong for me to hope that Feinstein and Pelosi is being investigated for the same thing oh please oh please.
One can dream can't he

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