On Monday, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, 55, the leader of Ghee Kung Tong, the more than 150-year-old fraternal organization whose former leader Allen Leung was murdered in 2006, is standing trial on charges of murder and racketeering.
Two sides of the Chow narrative will be presented: the federal government will accuse him of ordering murders that paved his way to the top of the fraternal organization as well as laundering huge amounts of money to hide drug deals; while the defense will argue that Chow is an admitted former gangster who was lured into trouble by FBI agents, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The defense had attempted to forestall the trial by claiming Chow was targeted for political reasons, arguing that evidence against San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee did not prompt charges against him. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, presiding over the case, rejected that argument.
Chow is charged with ordering the murder of Leung, in addition to conspiring in the 2013 murder of Jim Tat Kong, who allegedly headed a rival gang.
Co-defendants in the racketeering case divulged information leading to the murder charges against Chow; Chow’s attorneys insist the co-defendants invented their stories to preserve themselves. Chow’s defense will be led by two former convicts, reports the Los Angeles Times: Tony Serra, 80, who served federal time for tax evasion, and Curtis L. Briggs, who also was convicted of a crime in the late 1990’s.
The FBI had investigated the Ghee Kung Tong for five years before charges were filed against 29 defendants, including former State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), who pleaded guilty in July for accepting bribes from FBI agents offering campaign contributions.
The trial is likely to include wiretapped conversations between Chow and FBI agents, which could benefit Chow; one tape allegedly features Chow rejecting an agent who wanted to bribe him.
Chow’s background is chock-full of violence; as SF Weekly reported, he admitted robbing engineers at gunpoint when he was 18, leading to eight years in prison, and a lifetime of crime. However, in recent years he presented himself as a reformed gangster, and played an active role in San Francisco’s civic life.
“Shrimp Boy” has maintained a charismatic public profile, even from jail. Last year, he participated from jail in a symposium on investigative journalism with the University of California Berkeley.
The main public figure to fall in the scandal was Yee, who was a candidate for California Secretary of State at the time. Though a devoted campaigner against guns, Yee was implicated in arms smuggling as part of his overall scheme of corrupt fundraising.