5:30 P.M. By Katie Orr
In what the Senate President says sounds like a bad movie, a federal complaint alleges that State Senator Leland Yee, a Bay Area Democrat, committed wire fraud and gun trafficking. Undercover FBI agents say Yee set up meetings for them on topics ranging from legislation to arms dealing. In return, the agents made contributions to Yee’s Secretary of State campaign.
Senate Democrats reacted with shock and disgust at the allegations. Senate President Darrell Steinberg says, while Yee is innocent until proven guilty, the charges are sickening.
“I want to, on behalf of my colleagues today, call on Senator Yee to resign. Leave. Don’t burden your colleagues and this great institution with your troubles. Leave," Steinberg says.
Many view the gun trafficking charge with particular surprise because Yee was known as a passionate gun control advocate. He’s authored several bills seeking to regulate guns and ammunition.
(AP) 3:00 P.M.Federal officials are accusing a California state senator of conspiracy to deal firearms and wire fraud.
The allegations against State Sen. Leland Yee were outlined in an FBI affidavit in support of a criminal complaint against Yee and 25 other people. The affidavit was unsealed Wednesday, as Yee was scheduled to appear in court.
Also named in the affidavit is Raymond Chow. Chow, who is also known as "Shrimp Boy," was the former leader of a Chinese criminal organization with ties to Hong Kong.
Chow is accused of money laundering, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen property and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.
He and Yee were arrested earlier in the day during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Read the full indictment against Yee and 25 other people.
(AP) 2:30 P.M. A California state senator who was lauded for his efforts to make government more transparent was arrested Wednesday along with a onetime gang leader known as "Shrimp Boy" during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said.
FBI spokesman Peter Lee confirmed the arrests of State Sen. Leland Yee and Raymond Chow, but declined to discuss the charges, citing an ongoing investigation. Yee was scheduled to be arraigned in federal court in San Francisco later Wednesday.
The agency was executing numerous arrests and search warrants in the Bay Area, FBI Special Agent Michael Gimbel said outside the offices of Ghee Kung Tong, a fraternal organization in San Francisco's Chinatown that Chow reportedly headed. It was among the sites searched. Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.
Yee is the third Democratic senator to face charges this year. Sen. Rod Wright was convicted of perjury and voter fraud for lying about his legal residence in Los Angeles County, and Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted on federal corruption charges. Wright and Calderon are taking a voluntary leave of absence, with pay, although Republicans have called for them to be suspended or expelled from the Legislature.
Mark Hedlund, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, confirmed that the FBI searched Yee's office in the state capitol on Wednesday, but he said he had no information about the arrest.
"We're hoping for more as we go through the day," he said.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he had no comment and did not know anything about the investigation.
Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Senate sergeant-at-arms details were standing guard outside Yee's office, where a morning newspaper remained untouched.
Yee, 65, represents western San Francisco and much of San Mateo County. A spokesman for the senator, Dan Lieberman, said he had no comment, but the senator's office would release a statement in the afternoon.
He is best known publicly for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws, including legislation to close a loophole in state public records laws after the CSU Stanislaus Foundation refused to release its $75,000 speaking contract with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2010.
Chow ran a Chinese criminal organization with ties to Hong Kong and was convicted of gun charges. But he had recently been held up as an example of successful rehabilitation and was praised for his work in the community.
Yee's arrest came as a shock to Chinese-Americans who see the senator as a pioneering leader in the community and a mainstay of San Francisco politics, said David Lee, director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee.
"People are waiting to see what happens, and they are hoping for the best, that the charges turn out not to be true," said Lee, whose organization just held a get-out-the-vote event with Yee and other Chinese-American elected officials last week.
For his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act, Yee was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which awarded him its public official citation for his efforts last year to maintain the requirements of the California Public Records Act.
Yee has at times clashed with fellow Democrats for casting votes of conscience, refusing to support the Democratic budget proposal in 2011 because of its deep cuts to education, social services and education. He also opposed legislation by a fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Paul Fong of Cupertino, that banned the sale of shark fins used for Chinese shark fin soup, saying that it unfairly targeted the Chinese-American community.
Yee is among three Democrats running this year for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections and campaign finance reporting. He lost a bid for mayor of San Francisco in 2011.
A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons.
Chow acknowledged in an unpublished autobiography that he ran prostitution rings in the 1980s, smuggled drugs and extorted thousands from business owners as a Chinatown gang member, KGO-TV reported two years ago.
In 1992, Chow was among more than two-dozen people indicted on racketeering charges for their alleged involvement in crimes ranging from teenage prostitution to an international drug trade mostly involving heroin.
He was later convicted of gun charges and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He spent 11 years in prison and was released in 2003 after he cut a deal with the government to testify against another high-ranking associate, Peter Chong. Chong was later convicted of racketeering.
But Chow told KGO-TV in a 2012 interview that he had changed and was working with at-risk children in San Francisco.
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California issued a statement in 2012 recognizing Chow as a former offender who had become an asset to his community, the Sacramento Bee reported. Chow was also praised by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee for his "willingness to give back to the community," the Bee reported.
(AP) 10:30 A.M. The FBI says a California state senator has been arrested during a series of raids in the San Francisco Bay Area.
FBI spokesman Peter Lee said State Sen. Leland Yee was arrested Wednesday morning. He declined to discuss the charges, citing an ongoing investigation.
Lee said a second man, Raymond Chow, was also arrested. Chow was reportedly the head of Ghee Kung Tong, one of several fraternal organizations in San Francisco's Chinatown. Chow had returned to Chinatown after serving time in prison on gun charges.
The group's offices were among those raided Wednesday.
Yee represents western San Francisco and much of San Mateo County.
8:30 A.M. Several news agencies in the Bay Area are reporting that State Sen. Leland Yee has been indicted on bribery and corruption charges.
The media outlets say federal agents are conducting raids in Yee's offices in Sacramento and San Francisco.
Other raids are underway at locations in San Francisco's Chinatown.
This marks the third scandal among Senate Democrats with one senator convicted of felony voter fraud and perjury and another under indictment for allegedly accepting and soliciting $100,000 in bribes.
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