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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Entrapment Defense Tested for Ex-Gangster

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The defense attorney for former gangster Raymond Chow railed against "government-created crime" and "malfeasance" after his client's arraignment Tuesday.

"It's the best anti-government case I've seen in many a decade," attorney J. Tony Serra told reporters. "I'm anti-government. I'm anti-overreaching government. I'm anti-undercover spying activities. I'm against agent provocateurs that infiltrate groups for five years and instigate crimes themselves. It's reminiscent of the '60s. This case was made to be political. So from our perspective this will be a vigorous litigation. We will put the government rightfully on trial. We believe there is all kinds of malfeasance. We believe that we will bring that all out."

Serra stepped into Chow's corner this week in place of attorney Martha Boersch.

Chow, a notorious Chinatown gang member, is charged with laundering gambling and drug money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a member of La Cosa Nostra from New Jersey, as well as conspiring to sell contraband cigarettes. After his release from his latest prison stint in 2003, Chow appeared to have turned his life around, making public announcements of reformation and becoming a figurehead in San Francisco's Chinese community.

"It's that rare occasion where I'm honored to represent a good human being, a human being who came out of custody and made a religious vow that he would never violate law again, and for the majority of his life, in the past seven to 10 years, he has been a public servant," Serra said. "He has helped the poor, he has no money whatsoever, he has lived on the charity of others, almost monastically. He's a beautiful man."

Chow holds a high position in the American branch of the Wo Hop To, a Hong Kong-based Triad group. He also heads the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinatown fraternal organization the FBI targeted in an investigation that netted 28 other defendants, including state Sen. Leland Yee and his political consultant Keith Jackson.

Yee is charged with wire fraud and conspiring to import firearms. Prosecutors say he agreed to import assault weapons from a Muslim separatist group in the Philippines in exchange for campaign donations from an undercover agent. Jackson is charged with trafficking guns, conspiring to sell drugs and agreeing to a murder for hire. Both pleaded not guilty.

An affidavit by FBI Special Agent Emmanuel Pascua describes how the undercover operative used Chow's contacts to infiltrate the Ghee Kung Tong. Chow allegedly once told that agent, "I don't have any knowledge of the crimes that pay for my meal," adding, "I'm still eating though. I'm hungry."

Serra said the undercover agent spent five years trying to entrap Chow, who never committed any "substantive crimes."

"It's a case where ultimately the government created the crime, the government financed the crime and the government ensnared my client by their affirmative acts tantamount to entrapment," Serra said. "Throw in from our perspective a modicum of racism, unadulterated racism. They tempted my client in every fashion to commit a substantive crime. In no occasion did he participate in any crime."

When asked why the FBI went after Chow, Serra replied: "My view? Racism. They wanted to take out what they call Chinese gangsters. Bunch of baloney."

Serra said Chow will appear in court next Tuesday. He is expected to plead not guilty to all charges.

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