San Francisco Chinatown gang leader gets life in prison

AP News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2016 7:19 PM
San Francisco Chinatown gang leader gets life in prison

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A dapper San Francisco Chinatown gangster known as "Shrimp Boy" whose conviction on murder and racketeering charges was part of a major federal organized crime investigation that also brought down a state senator was sentenced Thursday to two life terms — one for killing a rival.

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer said Raymond Chow's claim during his trial that he had had an epiphany and abandoned his criminal ways was "highly manipulative" and contrary to the evidence.

"The defendant is not going to change," the judge said.

The case against Chow, 56, exposed the underworld in one of the nation's oldest Chinatowns.

Prosecutors say Chow killed a rival in 2006 and took over a Chinese fraternal group with members who engaged in drug trafficking, money laundering and the sale of stolen cigarettes and top-shelf liquor such as Johnny Walker Blue Label and Hennessey XO.

Chow, wearing a dark suit and flashing a smile, maintained his innocence during the sentencing hearing while accusing the judge of bias, lead prosecutor William Frentzen of lying, and a former defense attorney of falling asleep during a previous court proceeding.

"I not apologize to the victims," Chow, who used a translator during the trial, said in English. "I feel sorry for them because they did not get the right guy. I'm not the man they're looking for. That is a total fail in the justice system."

Frentzen stood just a few feet away from Chow, shaking his head as Chow addressed him directly at times.

Frentzen called Chow a "highly manipulative, constant, perpetual liar."

"This is a man who is a parasite. He lived off of this organization and other people's criminal activities," the prosecutor said during the sentencing hearing, pointing at Chow.

Chow's conviction was largely the work of an undercover FBI agent who posed for years as a foul-mouthed East Coast businessman with mafia ties after infiltrating Chow's fraternal group — among dozens of active tongs, or family associations, in Chinatown.

The agent testified under a false name that he wined and dined Chow and his associates for years. Chow willingly accepted envelopes stuffed with thousands of dollars in cash for setting up various crimes, the agent said.

Chow said he was given the money because the agent was showing his respect, not in exchange for criminal activity. Chow presented himself as a reformed gangster who went from dealing drugs and running an escort service to mentoring troubled youth.

In addition to murder and racketeering, jurors convicted Chow of dozens of money laundering counts as well as conspiracy to commit murder in connection with a second slaying. The murder charge carried a mandatory life sentence.

The investigation of Chow's tong led to the indictment of more than two dozen people, including former State Sen. Leland Yee — a gun control advocate who acknowledged in a plea deal that he accepted thousands of dollars in bribes and discussed helping an undercover FBI agent buy automatic weapons from the Philippines.

A federal judge sentenced Yee in February to five years in prison.