Chinatown tong leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow insisted on his second day on the stand in federal court in San Francisco today that he gave up crime after 2003, didn’t plan two murders and took money from an undercover agent only as a symbol of respect.
Chow, 55, is the leader of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association.
He is on trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on charges of racketeering conspiracy, the murder in aid of racketeering of his predecessor in 2006, conspiring to murder another rival in 2013 and numerous counts of money laundering.
Prosecutors allege that he ran a criminal faction of the tong as an organized crime enterprise.
Chow became the first witness for the defense when his side of the case began Monday and told the jury that he renounced committing crimes after completing a federal prison sentence for racketeering and gun trafficking in 2003.
Today, under continued questioning from defense attorney Tony Serra and then cross-examination by prosecutor Ralph Frentzen, he repeated that claim.
“I take a vow, I said what I mean. … After 2003, I do not do all these things no more. I had no intention to hurt Allen Leung or Jim Tat Kong.”
The crimes Chow is currently charged with are alleged to have occurred between 2006 and his arrest by the FBI in March 2014.
Prosecutors allege that Chow ordered the gunfire slaying of Leung, his predecessor as dragonhead or leader of the tong, in Leung’s Chinatown business office in February 2006. They allege that he gave a “green light” to the murder of another rival, Jim Tat Kong, who was found fatally shot in his car in Mendocino County in 2013.
Chow has denied participation in either murder. The shooters in the two killings have not been identified.
Frentzen questioned Chow about a recording secretly made by an undercover FBI agent on Oct. 30, 2013, in which the agent and Chow discussed the two murders. The agent, known only by his pseudonym of Dave Jordan, posed as a Mafia member for four years during the investigation.
On the recording, Chow is heard telling the agent that when he heard about Kong’s death a few days earlier, he said:
“Wow, that was really cool.”
Later in the recording, Chow is heard saying:
“You know, even Allen Leung even back then, you know when I’m talking to him, I’ll tell you one time. I do not like them enough to make a second time. … You fuck around, you gone … I’ll only tell you one time and that’s it.”
After Frentzen played the recording, Chow agreed, “It is my conversation,” but reiterated he did not intend to hurt the two men.
Chow then said he was talking about street culture during that conversation and “how I used to be” in the days before he gave up crime.
“On the street, nothing has changed, but I change.”
Chow also denied that he took money from the agent as payoffs for introductions to tong associates who could carry out crimes for the agent such as money laundering and buying purportedly stolen liquor and cigarettes.
Instead, Chow told the jury, “He gave me the money because he was looking out for me. It was for love. It was respect.” Prosecutors alleged that Chow took about two-dozen payments totaling $60,000, in amounts ranging from $500 to $7,000,between 2011 and 2014.
Chow said during cross-examination that the total amount was “chump change” and said, “I’m not involved in no illegal business any more.
That’s why I didn’t make no money.” On some of the tapes played during the prosecution case earlier in the trial, Chow is heard saying, “No, no, no,” when the agent starts to put an envelope in his pocket; the agent testified that Chow nevertheless accepted the cash.
When asked by Frentzen whether he took the money, Chow said Tuesday:
“I wouldn’t say I took it. I received it.”
“He forced it on you?”
Frentzen and Serra told Breyer after the jury left for the day that they expect to complete the cross-examination and redirect examination on Wednesday.
After Wednesday, the trial in Breyer’s Federal Building courtroom will be in recess until Monday.