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Chinatown Crime Boss Gets Life Sentence

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Chinatown crime boss Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday for his role in the 2006 fatal shooting of a prominent Chinese businessman.

"I'll not apologize to the victims," Chow said Thursday in Federal Court. "I feel sorry for them because they did not get the right guy."

He added, "I feel I'm the victim in this matter."

In January, a jury convicted Chow of 162 criminal counts, including money laundering, conspiring to buy and sell stolen goods and conspiring to kill a rival named Jim Tat Kong, who was found shot dead in 2013. He was also found guilty of ordering the hit on Allen Leung, who was killed in his Chinatown import-export shop on Feb. 27, 2006.

Leung was at the time dragonhead of the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinatown fraternal organization that Chow wanted to take over, and did after Leung's death.

The Leung count alone carried a mandatory minimum life sentence.

"The murder in this case that requires the life sentence was particularly callous because it was the removal of an obstacle to your ascension to power," U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said.

Chow insisted on his innocence, saying the court was biased in allowing Leung's daughter to testify.

Breyer also sentenced Chow to ten years for the Kong murder conspiracy and ordered him to pay Leung's family nearly $16,000 in restitution for funeral expenses.

Addressing Breyer, Chow railed against the government and hurled blame at his former defense team, particularly Curtis Briggs, who was dropped from the case in June.

"I'm not asking for mercy and sympathy from the court for what I did not do," Chow said, insisting that his lawyers had stipulated to wiretap evidence against his wishes. The wiretaps showed him accepting money from an undercover FBI agent posing as an East Coast Mafioso named David Jordan, who laundered money and sold illicit alcohol and cigarettes using connections developed through Chow.

Referring to the government, Chow said, "They totally manipulated the whole conversation and are totally lying about the whole conversation. When I told the agent 'no' they translated it 'yes.'"

Chow said his lawyers: Briggs, J. Tony Serra and Tyler Smith initially refused to stipulate to the wiretaps, but eventually did so over his objections. Because of this, Chow said, the defense was unable to impeach the agent's credibility.

Chow said the government had used him by committing crimes and then blaming him, when all the while Chow had no idea what was going on.

"This agent is doing the crime behind my back and after he conducted the crime he told me, 'oh yeah we've got a good business,' and I don't even know what they are doing," he said. Chow insisted that if he wanted to make money, he could have done so himself.

"If I'm such a criminal, don't you think I know how to make my own money? I was a loan shark since I was 13 years old. I know how to make money, but I choose not to."

Turning sharply and waving his glasses at Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen, Chow said, "You know it's a lie and you accept those lies because you're selectively prosecuting me."


Chow was one of 29 defendants rounded up in an FBI sweep in March 2014, after a five-year undercover racketeering probe in San Francisco that also nabbed former State Sen. Leland Yee and former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson.

Both pleaded guilty in July 2015 to one count of felony racketeering after reaching a deal with federal prosecutors.

Yee is currently serving five years; Jackson nine.

On Thursday, Breyer said the government's investigation of Chow was above board, and that he believed Chow "is not going to change."

"The court looked at voluminous filings for the justification of the wiretaps," Breyer said. "It is the court's view that the government's investigation was entirely appropriate. The court saw no evidence of any impropriety by the FBI or other government agencies. To the contrary, the evidence in the case demonstrated that it was the defendant who committed the crimes."

Frentzen, who shook his head during Chow's near hour-long polemic, had said earlier that he knew Chow would lob accusations at prosecutors, and even blame his own attorneys for his conviction.

"He had no option but to throw them under the bus because he's run out of people to falsely blame for his own predicament," Frentzen said. "If you're in a lot of hot water- take a shot at the government- why not? But that didn't bear any fruit in the course of the actual trial."

"In the early part of the case it was necessary for certain criminal act to be suggested by the undercover agent, that was sort of part of the natural ingratiation period," Frentzen continued. "But once that trust level was established Mr. Chow then proceeded to rapidly and frequently intro the undercover agent to a large number of individuals that were actively engaged in criminal activity."

Later, Frentzen added, "I don't know if a defendant could demonstrate more of a lack of remorse. This is a man who is a parasite. He lived off the criminal acts of others. Mr. Chow hasn't worked a day in his life."

Since his conviction, Chow has fired his legal team and hinged his appeal on the claim that his counsel was ineffective. During his address to the court, Chow accused Briggs of lying to him repeatedly, missing deadlines to file motions, refusing to let him review those motions and even falling asleep three times in court.

"As time went on, I realized my defense team failed to protect my rights. I find Curtis had been lying to me," Chow said. "From time to time, Curtis was sitting next to me in court and he fell asleep. At least three times he was snoring next to me."

Briggs was unavailable to respond to a request for comment prior to publication. His assistant said his doctor had ordered him to take some time off for health reasons.

Chow's new attorney Matthew Dirkes sparred briefly with Frentzen over a restraining order regarding Chow's assets. Breyer issued the order Thursday morning, saying Chow and his girlfriend Alicia Lo were prohibited from making any film, television or book deals.

Frentzen said Chow and Lo had been spending quite a bit of time on the phone "feverishly trying to figure out how to evade those assets," specifically the film or book rights to his life story.

"Ms. Lo is trying to figure out how she can do this legitimately," Dirkes said. She is consulting lawyers. There is no vast conspiracy to try to hide proceeds from some contract that doesn't exist."

Frentzen said, "What she's actually doing is saying, 'We should not be talking about this on the phone, it's being recorded,' and 'how do we get this done, make it look like your book is my book.' I don't know if it's worth anything or not, I just know Mr. Chow and Ms. Lo should not be profiting off of it."

Born in Hong Kong in 1959, Chow came to the United States at age 9. His first conviction was in 1978 for armed robbery, for which he served about 7 years. He also served a three years in prison from 1986-89 for assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder. In 2000, he was sentenced to 24 years for conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, murder for hire and a spate of other crimes. He was released in 2003 after testifying against his former boss Peter Chong, the leader of the Hong Kong-based gang Wo Hop To.

Breyer cited that criminal history when Dirkes asked him to allow Chow to stay in a federal facility near San Francisco. "Given the nature of the charges and his past, I think it's more appropriate that the Bureau of Prisons make that judgment," Breyer said.

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