California State Senator Leland Yee has been charged in a bizarre series of crimes including a conspiracy to traffic weapons after a series of videotaped meetings with an FBI informant. It was a curious position for any elected official to be in but particularly curious for a senator who authored gun control legislation.
Yee is named with 25 other defendants, including Raymond Chow, a notorious former gang leader with ties to San Francisco’s Chinatown known as “Shrimp Boy.” Also charged is Keith Jackson, Yee’s campaign aide.
The charges detail a conspiracy to deal firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms as well as accepting tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and cash payments to provide influence agencies or legislation. That includes some $42,800 in cash or campaign contributions from undercover FBI agents. Even worse are the videotapes where Yee discusses a plan to arrange the shipment of weapons (including shoulder-fired missiles worth $500,000 to $2.5 million) from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines. Those weapons would have been brought to the United States.
The tapes show Yee complaining that he was dissatisfied with his seemingly successful life and wanted to be a desperado in the Philippines. He tells the undercover agent: “There’s a part of me that wants to be like you.” Given the strength of the evidence, he may get his life . . . at least in becoming a certifiable felon.
Yee, 65, represents western San Francisco and much of San Mateo County. He has sponsored legislation to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons, to require state studies on the safe storage of firearms, and other measures.
Chow has claimed to be rehabilitated after a criminal career that he admits include prostitution operations, drug smuggling, extortion, and other serious crimes. He was released in 2003 on a gun conviction after agreeing to testify against a former associate.
In crusading for gun control, Yee previously stated “But I am a father, and I want our communities to be safe, and god forbid if one of these weapons fell into the wrong hands.” If the FBI is correct, that concern did not extend to shoulder-launched missiles.
Here is the criminal complaint.