SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The FBI agent who spent more than three years posing as a member of an East Coast crime syndicate said Wednesday a key defendant in an organized crime investigation in San Francisco's Chinatown tried to distance himself from any criminal activity.
The agent testified for a second day using the pseudonym "David Jordan" to protect his identity in the murder and racketeering trial of Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow. Prosecutors say Chow took over a Chinese fraternal group after having its previous leader murdered and ran a racketeering enterprise that engaged in drug trafficking, money laundering and the sale of stolen cigarettes and alcohol. The investigation led to the conviction of a state senator.
Chow told the agent he did not want to know about the crimes the agent was engaging in with Chow's associates, the agent testified. As part of his cover, the agent said his family was involved in illegal sports betting and marijuana cultivation and needed help laundering money.
"'I don't know what you guys have going on,'" the agent said Chow told him. "'You guys are doing bad things. I don't want to hear about that."
The agent, however, said a man Chow introduced him to referred to Chow as "boss," and another associate of Chow's told the agent he had Chow's "blessing" for the two of them to "do something together" and wanted to help Chow out with whatever he did.
Prosecutors say Chow introduced the agent to people who helped the agent launder money and engage in other crimes and accepted money for the introductions. Chow's attorneys say the agent instigated the crimes for which people were later arrested, and forced money on Chow, often when he was drunk.
The judge overseeing Chow's trial did not allow reporters or members of the public in the courtroom during the agent's testimony to protect his identity. Only the top of the agent's head was visible on a screen in a separate room where the proceedings were broadcast.
The agent previously testified he developed a false back story that included a grandfather whose Italian name was changed to 'Jordan' when he emigrated from Italy to the United States and a dummy company, Madison International, which his family used to launder money.
The agent spent hours with Chow and people connected to him at fancy restaurants and nightclubs, recording many of their conversations as he built a case that would ultimately lead to criminal charges against Chow and more than two dozen others and the conviction of state Sen. Leland Yee. Yee pleaded guilty to racketeering in July.
One of the Chow's associates during a 2011 meeting in Las Vegas put a gun and bag of cocaine on the table before he and the agent began talking about buying drugs and whether the associate could trust the agent, the agent said. He said he was "incredibly frightened" and tried to deescalate the situation.
"If I didn't compromise the case that would be good," he said he thought to himself at the time. "But my safety and going home to my family was certainly more important."