Critical IntelThe Senator Yee Affidavit: Bribery, Triads, Drugs, and Arms DealsCritical Intel - RSS 2.0
Part One: Infiltration
Though news outlets have focused on Yee exclusively in the days since his arrest, the Senator was only a bycatch in a wider net. In actuality, the FBI operation wasn't focused on public corruption or weapons trafficking, but on infiltrating and bringing charges against the Chee Kung Tong ("CKT") organization and its officers, especially Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow. The point man in this operation was Agent 99 , who spent almost four years undercover gaining the organization's trust and gathering evidence before the hammer came down.
Agent 99 was first introduced to Chow in May of 2010, claiming to be an East Coast member of Italian crime syndicate La Cosa Nostra wanting to extend his family's reach into California. The ruse was remarkably successful. A month after being introduced, Chow took Agent 99 fishing in Hawaii, where they stood on a private boat off the North Shore, discussing Chow's ability to get "military grade" Tungsten from China and the potential of selling stolen liquor abroad. In August, Agent 99 met Keith Jackson, who'd hooked up with Chow when he asked for the Dragonhead's support in a real estate development. Jackson, Chow hinted, had political influence and could do "inside deals" with the City. After a few months, Chow cleared Agent 99 to work with his people.
Agent 99 became a trusted fixture of the CKT's money laundering operation, both helping CKT launder its criminal funds (and thus learn their networks) and laundering his own organization's "illegitimate" cash. He branched out. After talking up how his crime family had started jacking trucks in New York, he started showing up with boxes of Hennessey XO and Johnnie Walker Blue Label to sell to Chinatown restaurants and export to Asia. He had CKT members help him unload 10,000 purportedly stolen cigarettes to a buyer in Flushing, New York. His "stolen" goods came in regularly, since they were all provided by Uncle Sam. As the years passed, Agent 99 sank deeper into the CKT structure, learning more about the organization's racketeering, gun, gambling and drug connections. With every successful enterprise, he'd give Raymond Chow an envelope with $1,000 cash in it for "introducing" the relationship.
Chow said the same thing every time: "No, no, no." Then he'd take the envelope and slide it into his sports jacket.
What Agent 99 learned was this: the Chee Kung Tong had both a legitimate and illegitimate side. The legitimate side did notable community work like providing language classes and social services for newly arrived immigrants - the illegitimate side was what Chow called the "Chee Kung Tong Criminal Enterprise." Officers of the CKT had to be legit and were not allowed to commit offenses, but they acted as command and control for the Triad soldiers. As Dragonhead, Chow was both the organization's strategic leader and judge, mediating disputes and deciding who would be welcomed into the organization or expelled. He was also a lightning rod, directing law enforcement attention away from the crimes of his lesser associates as they tried to catch the big fish. His hands-off style was so infamous it became a joke around the organization. Whenever criminal matters were discussed in front of him, Chow would call his underlings "trouble-makers" and "outlaws."
"You're an outlaw too," responded an associate once.
"I'm innocent," Chow said. "I don't have no knowledge of the crimes you commit to pay for my meal, that is very bad. But I'm still eating though, I'm hungry."
But among the stories of pistol whippings, drug routes and stabbings one name kept floating up: Senator Leland Yee. At a dinner in May 25th, 2011, Keith Jackson hit Agent 99 up for a $500 campaign donation toward Yee's mayoral campaign. It caused a terse exchange, with Chow stating that Senator Yee only now was realizing Chow's influence over the Chinese community, and that he had helped Yee enough already. One of Chow's longtime associates explained that Yee had made a mistake by not supporting Chow on one occasion. It was a pretty big red flag.
Regardless, Jackson continued to hit Agent 99 up for campaign donations through mid-2011, insisting that if 99 gave $5,000 he would get credit for it, and emphasizing how much of the city's budget Yee would control as mayor.
That's when the FBI decided to see how corrupt Senator Yee was.