SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A key defendant in an organized crime case in San Francisco's Chinatown testified Tuesday that the undercover agent leading the probe tried to drag him into conversations and force money on him.
Under cross-examination by prosecutors at his trial on murder and racketeering charges, Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow said the agent gave him money because the agent was looking out for him, not in exchange for any criminal activity.
"He tell me it's for love, respect," Chow testified in English, though it's not his first language and he has used a translator during other court hearings.
Chow characterized the $60,000 he received from the agent over three years as the equivalent of a "minimum wage godfather job" and said he could have made that amount in a day if he had really been involved in crime.
The agent previously testified that Chow repeatedly accepted payments after introducing the agent to money launderers.
Prosecutors say Chow was the leader of a Chinese fraternal group with criminal ties and ran an enterprise that engaged in drug trafficking, money laundering and the sale of stolen cigarettes and alcohol after having the group's previous leader killed.
The agent has said he spent hours with Chow and people connected to him at fancy restaurants and nightclubs, recording many of their conversations. The investigation led to the indictment of more than two dozen people and the conviction of state Sen. Leland Yee, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in July.
Chow said he didn't want to know whether the agent was involved in illegal activity, so he would walk away from conversations the agent engaged in. Those conversations included discussions about money laundering, according to previous testimony.
Prosecutor William Frenzen asked Chow whether he pretended not to know what the agent was involved in.
During his first day of testimony Monday, Chow acknowledged dealing drugs and getting involved in a street gang but said he later renounced criminal activity.
Chow has also denied any involvement in the two killings cited in the charges.
Frenzen played a recording in which Chow said, "That was really cool," after hearing about one of the killings. Chow testified that he thought the slaying was karma.