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Friday, May 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Bodyguard Pins Second Murder on Shrimp Boy

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow's former friend and bodyguard implicated him in a second murder Thursday and said he cooperated with the government because he was "pissed off" and felt betrayed after hearing Chow's wiretapped admissions that he saw him as a patsy.

Kongphet "Fat Joe" Chanthavong, 36, once belonged to the Ghee Kung Tong, the Chinese fraternal organization headed by Chow, who is on trial for running it as a criminal enterprise.

Chanthavong pleaded guilty to racketeering, felony possession of a firearm, possession of marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute and manufacturing marijuana. He was one of 29 defendants rounded up in FBI raids in March 2014 after a five-year undercover investigation of Chow and the Ghee Kung Tong.

Dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit Thursday, Chanthavong said under cross examination that in 2011 he went with Chow to an election meeting of the Hop Sing Tong, a gang affiliated with the GKT, to which Chow also belonged.

"Chow wanted to prevent some guy named Jimmy from being elected," Chanthavong said. The meeting was held above a restaurant in Chinatown. Chanthavong said Chow ordered him to wait downstairs.

Later that night at a karaoke bar in Japantown, Chanthavong testified, Chow said, "Somebody needs to take care of Jimmy."

Chanthavong said he couldn't do it because he was a known associate of Chow.

Jimmy turned out to be Jim Tat Kong, who was found shot dead in Mendocino in 2013. His murder is still unsolved.

Chanthavong's friendship with Chow took a downhill turn in 2013 after Chow fought another friend and GKT member, Andy Li, outside a bar in San Francisco. All three were drunk, Chanthavong said, and Chow questioned his and Li's loyalty.

When Li protested that he was loyal, and that burns on half of his body ought to prove it, Chow retorted, "If you were loyal, you would have done something about Jimmy." The fight escalated when Chow slapped Li and Li hit back Chanthavong said in court.

Chanthavong said that when Li came to his senses later, he began saying repeatedly, "Fuck, he's going to kill for this."

Chanthavong said he assured Li things would be OK, that the three of them had been brothers for too long.

The next day, Chanthavong took Chow to lunch to patch things up. "I said Andy was drunk and he knows he made a mistake," Chanthavong testified. "He's real sorry. Chow said he'd think about it."

But a week later, Chow called to tell Chanthavong that he and Li were not invited to the next Ghee Kung Tong meeting. "He said you and Andy are no longer apart of the association. We're no longer brothers."

Chow's attorney J. Tony Serra avoided direct questions about the murder, striking instead at Chanthavong's credibility. He pointed out that Chanthavong faced life in prison for the gun charges because of his prior felony convictions, plus an additional 140 years for the drug and racketeering charges.

"You had the opportunity to provide substantial cooperation and if the government makes the motion you expect to be given leniency, don't you, sir? Isn't that why you're here? You want leniency!" Serra said.

"Yes," Chanthavong replied.

You're seeking really to save your own skin," Serra added.

"That's not entirely true," Chanthavong said.

"You did it because you're a good citizen?"

"No, I did it because I was pissed off. I was lied to. I was betrayed."

He added later that it was after he heard the FBI tapes in which Chow discussed the FBI undercover agent posing as an East Coast mobster named David Jordan. In the recording, Chow tells his driver George Nieh, "If he's a snitch, then he's a really good snitch," and that they should keep letting Jordan do drug and gun deals with Chanthavong and Li. Chanthavong told the jury that he thought Chow was using him as bait.

"I felt like I was getting thrown under the bus, that I was expendable," Chanthavong said.

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