Monday, May 5, 2014

Shrimp Boy & Company Bust

In late March, 2014, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow was arrested on the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Prior to his takedown, Chow’s Ghee Kung Tong organization was infiltrated by the FBI for five years.  After the bust, he was charged with money laundering and conspiracy to traffic stolen goods in a far-reaching federal indictment that included over two dozen other defendants.  To the shock of many, the indictment also included California State Senator Leland Yee.

Chow was born in 1960 in Hong Kong and nicknamed "Shrimp Boy" by his grandmother due to his small stature.  He soon made up for his physical size by gaining a large reputation. Chow joined a gang in his native Hong Kong when he was only nine years old after he stabbed a guy.  Sources say Chow was then inducted as a youngster into an organized-crime group in Macau.  He came to the United States at the age of 16, soon dropped out of high school, and became involved with the Hop Sing Tong gang in San Francisco.

When Chow was 17 years old he survived an attack by a rival gang called the “Joe Boys” at the Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown on December 4, 1977.  The attack was soon referred to as the “Golden Dragon Massacre”.  The incident left five people dead and eleven others injured, none of whom were gang members, and it shocked the entire community.  The assault was supposed to be a retaliation assassination for the death of Joe Boys member Felix Huey who was killed in a shootout with the Wah Ching in Chinatown's Ping Yuen housing project two months earlier.  Both attacks led to the creation of San Francisco PD’s Asian Gang Task Force that still exists today.

Chow was locked up for a series of crimes starting with a robbery conviction in 1978.  He was released in 1985, but in '86 Chow was charged with 28 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, attempted murder, mayhem, and illegal possession of a firearm.  He served three years in prison and was released again in 1989.  In 1992, Chow was arrested for racketeering and charged under two separate trials.  The first was for illegal gun sales and the second was for prostitution, drugs, and money laundering.  He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 24 years but he blamed many of his acts on just following orders under pressure from Peter Chong, head of the powerful Wo Hop To.

Prosecutors alleged that Chong, along with Wayne Kwong, and Shrimp Boy, planned to murder Boston Chinese underground figure Bike Ming in an effort to form new umbrella organization called Tien Ha Wui ("Whole Earth Association") that would dominate crime in Chinatowns throughout the United States.  Chong fled to Hong Kong just days before his indictment in 1992 for his role in the plot, but he was extradited to the U.S. in 2000.  After Chong was captured, Chow turned on his old boss and cooperated with authorities, testifying against him in exchange for a reduced sentence.  As a condition of his release, Shrimp Boy surrendered his visa.  He requested witness protection but his request was denied by the prosecuting attorney.

When Shrimp Boy was released from prison in 2003 he claimed to be reformed.  Chow's professed recovery and youth work earned him praise from such politicians as California State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein.

But according to federal authorities it was all an act.

In the current case, lawyers believe most of the 29 defendants will say they were illegally entrapped by the FBI, but they emphasized entrapment won't be part of Chow's defense.

"Our defense theory based on the investigation we have is that there was no entrapment because he didn't do anything wrong," Defense Attorney Curtis Briggs said.

Ironically, prior to his arrest, Sen. Yee was a gun control advocate.  He was charged with attempting to buy automatic firearms and shoulder-launched missiles from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.  Prosecutors allege he was desperate for more campaign money in his efforts to run for Secretary of State for California.

In the meantime, the FBI's interest has expanded to San Francisco City Hall and is far from over.