Chinatown association leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Francisco Thursday to racketeering conspiracy and other charges in a revised indictment.
The revised organized crime and political corruption indictment was issued by a federal grand jury on Jan. 29 against Chow and 27 other defendants, including former state Sen. Leland Yee and political consultant Keith Jackson.
The charges against most defendants, including Chow, remain the same as in a previous indictment, but the new document added two money laundering conspiracy counts against Yee and Jackson. All of the defendants are being re-arraigned on the revised 230-count indictment, known as the second superseding indictment, last week and this week.
Chow, 54, of San Francisco, is accused of conspiring to racketeer, or to operate a continuing criminal enterprise that allegedly included selling drugs and stolen property and money laundering. He is also charged with conspiring to receive and transport stolen liquor, conspiring to traffic in stolen and contraband cigarettes and numerous counts of money laundering. He entered his not-guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero.
Chow is the "dragonhead" or leader of the Chee Kung Tong, a Chinatown-based fraternal association that is alleged by prosecutors to have a criminal faction. He was previously convicted of racketeering and gun trafficking and has been in custody without bail since his arrest last March. Chow and his attorneys claim he turned his life around after his release from prison in 2003 and is innocent of the current charges.
Yee, Jackson and two other men are scheduled to go on trial in the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco in June. No trial date has been set thus far for Chow and the other defendants.
Curtis Briggs, a defense attorney for Chow, told Spero during Thursday's arraignment that he wants to argue that the delay in trial in unfair to Chow, that Chow should be among the first defendants to go on trial and that he should be granted bail. Spero told Briggs to make those arguments in filings submitted to Breyer.
Outside of court, Briggs said he plans to raise those and other issues in several pretrial motions he will file over the next few weeks.
"My client is innocent," said Briggs, who said the defense is in a "quagmire" because of delays in receiving evidence from federal prosecutors.
"We're concerned about the delay. Anything else we can handle," Briggs said.
The investigation of the 28 defendants began at least as early as 2010 by a number of undercover agents, including one who posed as a Mafia member and allegedly infiltrated the Chee Kung Tong, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case last March. The purportedly stolen liquor and cigarettes that Chow and others are accused of conspiring to traffick was supplied by that agent and undercover agents, the affidavit said.
Yee, 66, a Democrat, formerly represented the western half of San Francisco and most of San Mateo County in the state Senate. He and Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president, will be tried in June on charges of conspiring to racketeer by soliciting campaign contributions in exchange for political favors, defrauding citizens of his honest services, conspiring to launder money and conspiring in a never-completed deal to smuggle weapons from the Philippines.
Jury selection is slated to begin on June 1 and the trial itself on June 22.
Jackson, his son Brandon Jackson, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan will also be tried in that proceeding on charges of selling guns without a license. Jackson is additionally accused along with Chow and 15 other defendants of participating in the separate organized-crime racketeering conspiracy, but that charge will be included in a later trial.
Breyer has scheduled a pretrial hearing for all defendants on April 30.