SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Federal agents are accusing a California state senator of weapons trafficking and fraud.
The allegations against State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, were outlined in an FBI affidavit, which was unsealed Wednesday, in support of a criminal complaint against Yee and 25 other people.
Yee looked downcast as he appeared in federal court Wednesday afternoon in handcuffs and shackles. He is charged with six counts of depriving the public of honest services and one count of conspiracy to traffic in guns without a license. His bail is set at $500,000. Yee told the judge he understands the charges against him.
Yee and several other defendants were arrested earlier in the day during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The arrests were a culmination of a nearly 4-year undercover FBI investigation into the Chinese mafia
FBI investigates Chinese criminal organization
According to the complaint, an undercover FBI agent infiltrated the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization (CKT). The agent was introduced into the organization and to other defendants through Raymond "Shrimpboy" Chow, the current leader – or Dragonhead – of the CKT.
Chow was the former leader of a Chinese criminal organization with ties to Hong Kong.
After the agent was inducted into the CKT as a "Consultant," he was able to uncover acts of money laundering, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, murder-for-hire schemes and trafficking of allegedly stolen cigarettes and liquor, through multiple undercover operations.
According to the complaint, Chow introduced the agent to Keith Jackson, a political consultant in the San Francisco area and a "Consultant" to the CKT. Through the introduction, the agent was able to buy various types of firearms. The agent was also able to sell stolen credit cards and cocaine to Jackson's associates. At one point, the agent purportedly conspired with Jackson's associates to commit a murder-for-hire scheme.
FBI investigates Yee
The complaint says Jackson was involved with raising campaign funds for Yee from at least May 2011 to the present. Yee and Jackson were also allegedly conspiring to traffic firearms, according to the complaint.
During the FBI investigation, Jackson and Yee raised money for Yee's Secretary of State campaign through undercover agents in exchange for favors.
"[The undercover agent] bribed Lee and Jackson to obtain a proclamation from the California Senate on behalf of the CKT. [The undercover agent] was present at a CKT function when the proclamation was presented by one of SENATOR YEE's staff members," the complaint said.
In May 2011, Jackson asked the FBI undercover agent to donate more than $500, the limit for individual donations. The agent refused, but introduced them to an associate, who was also a FBI undercover agent. The second agent ended up donating $5,000 to Yee's mayoral campaign.
"This includes soliciting [the second undercover agent] for additional donations in the course of doing so, SENATOR YEE AND KEITH JACKSON agreed that SENATOR YEE would perform certain official acts in exchange for donations from [the undercover agent]," the complaint stated.
After Yee lost the San Francisco mayoral race, he was $70,000 in debt because of the campaign, according to the complaint. Jackson then put together a plan to get rid of the debt.
The complaint said Yee called a manager at the California Department of Public Health on Oct. 18, 2012, and promised to support a contract under consideration with the second FBI agent's purported client, and provide an official letter of support, in exchange for $10,000 campaign donation. On Nov. 19, 2012, Yee accepted the cash donation. On Jan. 13, 2013, he provided the official letter of support.
In August 2013, Jackson told one of the undercover agents that Yee had contacts who dealt in weapons trafficking. According to the complaint, Jackson said if the agent made a campaign donation on Yee's behalf, Yee would introduce him to an arms dealer. During the meeting with the agent, Yee and Jackson discussed the types of weapons he might be interested in buying and importing.
Yee is the third Democrat in the state's upper house to be accused of criminal wrongdoing in recent months. State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, is on extended leave to address federal corruption charges. St. Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, convicted of voter fraud and perjury, is also on extended leave.