A prosecutor told a federal judge in San Francisco Tuesday that government lawyers are planning to add new charges against Chinatown association leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow of soliciting two murders.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ralph Frentzen said prosecutors are expecting a federal grand jury to issue a revised indictment with the new charges on Thursday.
"We have serious charges. This is late-developing information coming from cooperators. We're doing this as fast as we can do it," Frentzen told U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.
Chow, 55, the chief or "dragonhead" of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association, is currently charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and conspiring to transport and receive stolen goods. He is due to go on trial in Breyer's court on Nov. 2.
Although Chow would be entitled to seek a 30-day delay in view of the expected new charges, he and his defense lawyer, Curtis Briggs, said they didn't want that.
"I have been waiting for this trial for a very long time. I don't want to wait any more time and I'm looking forward to the start of the trial," Chow, dressed in orange jail clothing, told the judge.
Chow has been in custody since his arrest in March 2014. He and Briggs signed a waiver giving up his right to a trial delay.
The two murders Chow is accused of soliciting were the fatal shootings of Chow's predecessor as dragonhead, Allen Leung, in San Francisco in 2006 and of a former associate, Jim Tat Kong, in Mendocino County in 2013.
In a statement filed with Breyer Monday evening, prosecutors said both victims were killed by shooters who are currently unidentified, but said "the government is prepared to proceed with charges linking Chow to soliciting both murders."
The statement said evidence of the alleged murder solicitations will include testimony by two co-defendants who pleaded guilty last month to charges including gun dealing, gun possession and marijuana distribution.
The two co-defendants are Kongphet Chanthavong, 37, of San Francisco, described as a former driver for Chow, and Andy Li, 42, of South San Francisco, described as a former associate who had a falling-out with Chow in September 2013.
Chanthavong met Li and Chow in the early 2000s in federal prison in Dublin, where Chow was serving a sentence for a previous racketeering conviction, according to the statement.
The statement said other evidence will be recordings of conversations made by an undercover FBI agent and testimony by a person identified as Individual C, described as a former associate of Chow's who is now serving a prison term for murdering a gang rival.
Chow, Li and Chanthavong are among 29 people charged last year in a lengthy indictment that included both organized-crime charges against most defendants and separate political corruption charges against former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo.
In July, Yee and his fundraiser, former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson, pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept campaign contributions as bribes for political favors. They are awaiting sentencing.
Chow, Le and Chanthavong were among eight defendants who were scheduled to be the first group to go on trial, but last month, all except Chow pleaded guilty to various charges. That left Chow as the sole defendant in the upcoming trial.
Outside of court, Briggs alleged that the supposed evidence against his client is so weak that "it defeats the entire racketeering charge."
The defense attorney contended that recordings made by an undercover agent who was posing as a Mafia members show Chow telling three associates not to kill Kong.
Leung, 56, was killed by a masked gunman at his import-export business office on Jackson Street on Feb. 27, 2006.
The prosecution statement says Chanthavong will testify that Chow told him and others that he wanted a person who later turned out to be Leung "taken care of," and that Chanthavong conducted surveillance outside Leung's business for several weeks. The statement says Individual C will testify he drove the getaway car after the murder.
Kong, 51, of San Pablo, was found dead of a gunshot to the head in his car in Mendocino County on Oct. 17, 2013.
The prosecution statement alleged the evidence will show that Li "was one of many participants in the conversations with (the undercover agent) about how Chow wanted Kong dead and that Kong would be killed as a result of Chow removing his protection from Kong."
Jury selection in Chow's trial will take place Oct. 19-21 and opening statements will begin on Nov. 2. Also on Oct. 19, Breyer will hear arguments on a defense motion for disclosure of the identities of two undercover FBI agents.