By Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A man accused of being the boss of a Chinese-American organized crime gang will face a U.S. jury on Monday in a wide ranging federal sting dubbed "Operation White Suit," which included accusations of gangland murder.
Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow has been accused of controlling the Chee Kung Tong in San Francisco's Chinatown, according to a federal indictment.
Authorities have said Chow is the dragonhead of a Chinese fraternal organization that has a criminal component. The group has also been accused of violent crimes and trafficking narcotics and stolen goods.
Chow was arrested last year with several others including Leland Yee, a former Democratic state senator who has pleaded guilty to racketeering.
Chow's attorneys have claimed the Federal Bureau of Investigation orchestrated through undercover agents and informants much of the criminal activity attributed to Chow.
Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Monday in a San Francisco federal court.
U.S. prosecutors contend that Chow ordered the 2006 murder of Chee Kung Tong official Allen Leung in Leung's import/export shop in a dispute over money, according to court filings.
At Leung's funeral Chow wore a white suit, which Chow's attorneys have said was a sign of respect.
"Unfortunately," his lawyers wrote in a court filing, "the uninformed FBI interpreted Raymond's choice of suit color to be a 'rise to power' thereby launching a decade of undercover operations and prosecution against Chow."
Prosecutors have asked that Leung's widow be permitted to observe Chow's trial, even though she could be called to testify because she was present when Leung was murdered.
Chow is a longtime fixture in San Francisco's Chinatown. In 2000 he testified for the government in a separate prosecution against his former gang and served a prison sentence.
Chow's lawyers have claimed that after his release, Chow reformed his past ways. But prosecutors have said that he assumed power in Chinatown and directed criminal activity.
According to court documents, prosecutors intend to play for the court recorded conversations with Chow.
Chow's attorney, Tony Serra, was the subject of the 1989 film "True Believer," which was based on Serra and his defense of a man wrongly implicated in a Chinatown murder in the 1970's.
(Reporting by Dan Levine)