Leland Yee, a California state Senator, was arrested at his home early Wednesday morning on charges of public corruption. Charges cite Yee’s involvement in bribery – the solicitation of illegal campaign donations, for which in exchange, he promised political favors. In addition, he has also been linked to a conspiracy involving firearms trafficking.
Yee was only one of many who were arrested by the FBI on Wednesday. Peter Lee, an FBI spokesperson said that the FBI “executed multiple search warrants and made numerous arrests in the city and beyond,” but declined to elaborate further on the grounds of officer safety. In all, 26 people were to be arrested and charged.
Sources say that Wednesday’s arrests stem from an investigation that has been years in the making. Following Yee’s arrest, FBI agents raided his Sacramento State Capitol office where they confiscated his computers and paperwork.
Other confirmed arrests include former Chinatown gangster, Raymond Chow, 54 also known as Shrimp Boy and political consultant, Keith Jackson. Chow was arrested in San Francisco at his place of business, Ghee Kung Tong Free Masons. Firefighters were seen sometime later entering Chow’s workplace and used a circular saw to gain entry to a safe. Charges against Chow include conspiracy to transport stolen property, traffic contraband cigarettes, and money-laundering.
According to the federal criminal complaint, Jackson is closely linked to both Yee and Chow. His charges include drug and gun trafficking, a murder-for-hire conspiracy, and helping Yee obtain illegal campaign funds. Jackson made promises to donors that in exchange for their campaign contributions. He told some that Yee would connect them with an arms dealer who would then help them import illegal weapons, and he assured others that Yee would introduce them to state legislators who have influence over pending legislation regarding marijuana.
Yee was set to appear in court before Judge Nathaniel Cousins, a Federal Magistrate, later in the day on Wednesday where he would be arraigned.
Prior to being elected in November 2006 to represent District 8 in the California State Senate, Yee made many promises, which included supporting small businesses and increasing transparency within the government. And while many thought Leland Yee was upholding those promises, his arrest on charges of public corruption suggest otherwise.
Yee’s arrest came as a surprise to many among the Chinese-American community. David Lee, director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee said Yee has been viewed by many in the Chinese-American community as a “pioneering leader in the community and a mainstay of San Francisco politics.
In fact, just last week, Yee was honored and given a public official citation award by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for his efforts over the last year for maintaining requirements associated with the California Public Records Act.
Even the mayor of San Francisco, Ed Lee spoke out after hearing the news of Yee’s arrest saying, “That’s shocking news to me.” Lee went on to say he was sorry to see Yee’s longtime record of public service tainted by these allegations.
He made history as the first Chinese-American to ever be elected to the California State Senate. Leland Yee’s arrest on charges of public corruption makes him the third Democratic state senator from California who is currently fighting criminal charges.
By Donna W. Martin