SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, the leader of the Chinatown-based Chee Kung Tong organization, and four other defendants pleaded not guilty in federal court in San Francisco today to charges in a wide-ranging grand jury indictment filed earlier this month.
Chow and the others arraigned today were among 29 people named in the April 3 indictment, which also accuses suspended state Sen. Leland Yee of public corruption and conspiring in an alleged international arms deal.
The charges against Chow and the three other men and one woman who pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Nandor Vadas today are not directly related to the charges against Yee.
Chow, 54, of San Francisco, who was previously convicted of gun charges and racketeering, is accused of money laundering, conspiring to traffic in contraband cigarettes, and conspiring to transport the stolen cigarettes across state lines.
He was arrested March 27 on an earlier criminal complaint and has been held in custody since then. He previously appeared in court several times but delayed entering a plea until today.
Chow is the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong, described by prosecutors as a civic organization that allegedly has a criminal faction. An FBI affidavit filed with the criminal complaint alleged that Chow was in charge of the criminal faction and approved its members’ activities.
Chow’s lawyers, led by veteran defense attorney Tony Serra, contend the group is not a criminal organization but rather “a beautiful group of people who bonded together to do beautiful things.”
They maintain Chow has reformed since being released from prison a decade ago and is now “an exemplary human being” who worked on charitable causes for black and Chinese youth in San Francisco.
Chow and most of the other defendants are due to return to the court of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer on Thursday for a hearing on a protective order that will set guidelines for prosecutors’ release of evidence, including recordings made by undercover FBI agents, to defense attorneys. A trial date has not been set.
Also pleading not guilty today were Brandon Jackson, 28, of San Francisco, and sports agent Marlon Sullivan, 29, of Oakland, who were arrested on March 27 in Connecticut and New Jersey and made their first appearance in federal court in San Francisco today.
Jackson and Sullivan are accused of joining Jackson’s father, former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson, in an alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill a fictitious victim for $25,000. The murder was allegedly requested by an undercover FBI agent who was posing as a Mafia member.
Both Jacksons and Sullivan are also accused of selling guns and ballistic vests to the undercover agent, who said he needed them to protect a Mendocino County marijuana-growing operation, according to the criminal complaint.
The two Jacksons and Sullivan are also charged with conspiring to sell cocaine, which they allegedly requested from the undercover agent, according to the complaint.
The others arraigned today are Leslie Yun, 42, and her husband, James Pau, 55, of Oakland, both described in the complaint as officers of the Chee Kung Tong. They were arrested in New York state on March 26.
Yun and Pau pleaded not guilty to charges of laundering money from purportedly illegal activities for the undercover agent and conspiring to transport stolen cigarettes across state lines.
Brandon Jackson, Sullivan, Yun and Pau are all being held in custody for the time being, but will have hearings before a magistrate Friday and Monday to determine whether they can be freed on bail while awaiting trial.
Federal prosecutors have told Breyer that they expect to obtain a revised indictment within three months that might include charges of racketeering for running a continuing criminal enterprise. They have not said which defendants might be accused of the potential new charge.