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Chow Trial Witness Tells of Bay Area Gang War

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Cross-examination in the trial of Chinatown crime boss Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow on Friday revealed wide-reaching tensions to the point of warfare among Bay Area Asian-American gangs, but not much more.

Chow is accused of racketeering and conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering.

Kam Wong, the alleged getaway driver for a 2006 Chow-ordered hit on businessman Allen Leung, told the federal jury about his organization Hop Sing Tong's conflicts with rival gangs in the East Bay.

Wong began by answering federal prosecutor William Frentzen's questions about a hit list that fellow Hop Sing Tong member Raymond Lei had given him at a meeting in a Denny's in San Leandro. He said the list contained names of "people that was giving us problems."

Lei told him to take care of Allen Leung first, but he also wanted a person named Simon, who belonged to "one of those other groups that we don't get along with," dead, Wong said.

Also on the hit list was a person named James, who was "opposing Shrimp Boy for taking the dragon head seat," Wong said.

He testified that in May 2006, he and a "trusted follower and soldier" named TQ went to a karaoke bar at Third and Folsom Streets in San Francisco, where they planned to shoot James in the parking lot.

But James came out of the bar with six or seven people, Wong said, so they did not shoot.

If James had come out alone, he "would've been dead that night," but with a "person like that that has position and power, it would not end with just a slap, because it would make him lose face," Wong said.

"There would be retaliation. I'd either whack him or send my boys out to whack him directly."

Frentzen also brought up a gang called Yellow Pride - based in Vallejo and Oakland and containing mostly Vietnamese members - and an altercation between Wong and Yellow Pride representatives at an Oakland coffee shop.

Wong said he and other Hop Sing members were celebrating the birthday of a girlfriend of one of the Viet Thugs - a gang with whom Hop Sing was friendly - at a coffee shop on 83rd Street and International Boulevard, but when some Yellow Pride members came in "things got rowdy."

A Yellow Pride member "poured a beer on the birthday girl's lap," Wong said, and "an argument broke out and people started grabbing each other's shirts, scuffling."

He added, "I pulled out a gun and fired a shot to get everybody calmed down, and everybody just left. Then it was an open season. That means we're at war with Yellow Pride."

During the summer of 2006, Wong said he and his "youngsters" started driving around Oakland and looking into coffee shops and pool halls for Yellow Pride members, and "we agreed to shoot on sight."

He said there was a shootout on June 4, when Wong and his crew went to a house party for a Viet Thug member's birthday.

Four Yellow Pride cars arrived at the house wielding stakes, pipes and beer bottles as weapons and a fight broke out, Wong said.

Wong and his two youngsters were armed and Wong fired, hitting two Yellow Pride members - one of whom died, Wong said.

After the shooting, Wong said he left the country on his brother's passport and hid out in Taiwan for six months. But he returned to the United States to collect $150,000 that Raymond Lei owed him for a marijuana deal, he said.

Wong said he was arrested while he was waiting for Lei in South San Francisco, after someone told the police that they had seen a person smoking drugs in a nearby park and the cops assumed it was Wong, who was smoking a cigarette.

The police learned of a warrant out for Wong's arrest, and Wong eventually entered a guilty plea for voluntary manslaughter in Alameda County Superior Court.

In 2010 he was sentenced to 30 years in prison, but he soon started cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation of Shrimp Boy, with the hope of reducing his sentence.

"I was mad at Raymond Lei, because he didn't want to pay me and wasn't doing what he was supposed to," Wong said. "He reneged on our agreement and was making hurdles for me to jump over and wasn't taking care of my boys how he was supposed to."

Veteran defense attorney Tony Serra began his cross-examination of Wong by trying to get him to admit to inconsistencies in his various accounts of Allen Leung's murder, which Wong conceded existed in the stories he told law enforcement.

"You didn't have any problem lying to the police, did you?" Serra said. "You had no hesitation in naming an individual as the killer who was not the killer."

Wong continued to admit to lies and fabrications in his prior versions of the Leung murder but, poker-faced, he did not give Serra much more.

Serra then interrogated Wong's motivations for being a witness in the trial at all.

"You're facing life on the racketeering charge that you just pleaded to and doing 30 on the murder than you participated in and pleaded guilty to manslaughter on," Serra said. "You've got two things hanging over your head," the attorney continued. "And your only hope of getting out at any reasonable age is that you get a downward departure here and Alameda favors you with some sort of reduced sentence. That's part of your strategy, isn't it?"

"I wouldn't call it a strategy," Wong said.

"Your plan, then?" Serra asked.

Wong said yes.

"So isn't your decision to cooperate a decision that comes out of sheer desperation?" Serra asked. "You're desperate to get out, you'd do anything to get out, you used my guy [Chow] as a get-out-of-jail, you know, pass."

Still expressionless, Wong said, "No."

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