SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The undercover FBI agent at the center of an organized crime investigation in San Francisco's Chinatown testified Monday that he did not always tell a key defendant why he was paying him and discussed investing in the defendant's book project.
Under cross-examination for the first time, the agent said he misspoke when he told jurors during earlier testimony that he always told Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow that he was paying Chow for connecting him to other people for criminal activity. He said he had one conversation about investing in Chow's book, but was never given a manuscript.
Prosecutors say Chow took over a Chinese fraternal group with criminal ties after having its previous leader killed and ran a racketeering enterprise that engaged in drug trafficking, money laundering and the sale of stolen cigarettes and alcohol.
The investigation previously led to the conviction of a state senator.
Chow's attorney say the agent instigated the crimes for which people were later arrested and forced money on Chow, often when he was drunk. They say Chow — a former gang leader — was reformed, wanted nothing to do with crime and was looking forward to lucrative book deal about his life.
Curtis Briggs, one of Chow's attorneys, said Chow repeatedly said "no" when the agent offered him money.
"How many times does somebody have to say "no" before you don't put the envelope in their pocket," Briggs asked.
The agent said Chow never tried to give the money back.
"He probably could have physically handed it back to me," the agent said. "He probably could have stopped calling me. He probably could have reported me to the police. He probably could have done a number of things Mr. Briggs, but he did none of that."
The FBI agent testifying under the fake name David Jordan to protect his identity previously testified he spent more than three years posing as a member of an East Coast crime syndicate involved in illegal sports betting and marijuana cultivation as he tried to get close to Chow.
The agent said Chow introduced him to other people who helped him launder money, but told the agent he did not want to know about the crimes being committed.
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 the charges against Chow and more than two dozen others and the conviction of state Sen. Leland Yee, who pleaded guilty to racketeering in July.