Anti-gun Leland Yee tangled in weapons charges


Famously anti-gun in public, State Sen. Leland Yee has fought loudly for stricter gun laws as a state senator and assemblyman.

After the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, Conn., Yee said:

 “Assault weapons are killing little kids, babies.”

Yet Yee’s image as an anti-gun crusader was punctured Wednesday as page after page of a federal criminal complaint accused the State Senator of bribery, corruption and, perhaps most surprisingly, allegedly acting as an intermediary in a multi-million dollar conspiracy to traffic assault rifles and other weapons out of the Philippines.

In a federal criminal complaint released Wednesday, Yee is quoted telling an undercover federal agent:

“People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don’t care. People need certain things.”

Five years of FBI undercover investigation culminated in Wednesday’s arrest of Yee, alleged Chinatown crime boss Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, San Francisco political consultant Keith Jackson and 17 others.

The 137-page legal document against 26 complainants reads like a Scorsese screenplay, with guns, booze, drugs, money, in-fighting and murder-for-hire all playing supporting roles.

Much of the complaint centers around Chow and a series of money laundering transactions. But Yee and Jackson are implicated in a number of subplots involving arms trafficking, Filipino rebels and good-old “play-to-play” politics.

Mired under $70,000 in campaign debt from his failed 2011 mayoral campaign, Yee and Jackson approached an undercover federal agent who had previously supported Yee, according to the complaint.

This time, the complaint alleges, the donations came in exchange for Yee’s promises of certain official acts. The complaint alleges a phone call and letter from Yee to help secure a state contract were made in exchange for a $10,000 donation.

In November 2012, A different federal agent delivered the donation to Jackson, who accepted on behalf of Yee. This federal agent — identified in the complaint as “UCE 4599” — was deeply involved with criminal activity in Chow’s Chee Kung Tong organization.

Jackson allegedly told the agent he could arrange a meeting with an international arms dealer — a contact of Sen. Yee’s. Jackson and his son Brandon had allegedly been selling the undercover agent handguns and semi-automatic weapons throughout much of 2013.

After a series of delays, the agent, Jackson and Yee met earlier this month at a San Francisco restaurant with Dr. Wilson Lim, also named in the criminal complaint.

Lim was identified as a point of contact for a weapons deal in the Philippines, and the four men discussed the framework of a $2 million deal that would send automatic rifles and other weapons from the Philippines to the United States and then on to North Africa.

Yee allegedly told the agent there were approximately 100 rifles available in the transaction, as the Muslim rebels in the Philippines had “a lot of money” and were financed by former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Altogether, the complaint alleges Yee received donations from three different federal agents, two of whom were promised official acts in return.

In March 2013, provided an official State Senate proclamation honoring Chee Kung Tong. In May and July, Jackson accepted checks from an undercover agent in the amounts of $5,000 and $1,800.

A third undercover agent posing as a medical marijuana businessman allegedly paid $21,000 to Yee and Jackson for introducing the agent to unnamed state legislators with influence over pending legislation.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as associate professor at San Francisco State University.

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