SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Former gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow regularly disavowed knowledge of his friends' criminal doings in Chinatown, but an undercover FBI agent who spent over three years with him testified Thursday that Chow was actually pulling the strings.
The agent, who posed as an East Coast mafioso named David Jordan, said Chow would often joke about the criminal activity Jordan engaged in with his friends in the Ghee Kung Tong, but would always deny his involvement.
At one lunch meeting with Chow and his best friend George Nieh, Jordan and Nieh discussed a deal to export 300 bottles of stolen Hennessy cognac to China. Jordan's concealed device recorded Chow saying: "You guys are outlaws. I don't want to know. How do I hang out with an outlaw like you? I don't have no knowledge of the crimes being committed."
Later, he laughed and said: "I'm good with the outlaw thing, man."
Jordan also recorded a conversation with Nieh in which he pretended to complain about Chow's feigned innocence: "Motherfucker, we don't have any liquor license. It's fucking stolen, you know that," Jordan said. "He [Chow] was pulling that bullshit, acting dumb. He fucking knew."
Nieh replied: "It's better to keep him out."
When the deal closed, Jordan gave Chow $5,000 in an envelope, as "respect" for allowing Jordan to do business with his people. Chow protested, but eventually said: "I'm not going to argue with this."
The jury also heard a July 26, 2012 phone call Jordan recorded with Nieh, in which they discussed keeping Chow isolated from their various stolen liquor and cigarette deals.
Jordan: "Whatever I do, I will I always take care of you and the old man because without your help, and especially his permission, I wouldn't be able to do this.
Nieh: "Just don't talk to him too much about the business. I don't think he wants to know."
Jordan: "There is no doubt in my mind that he's a target for law enforcement. Everyone is focused on him."
Nieh. "That's why I share my cut with him, because he's willing to sacrifice by being a target."
Chow is accused of running the Ghee Kung Tong as a criminal enterprise that trafficked drugs, guns and stolen goods. He also is charged with ordering the murder of his GKT predecessor Allen Leung in 2006, and conspiring to murder fellow gang member Jim Tat Kong. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Chow served prison time in 1978 for armed robbery and was sentenced in 2000 to 24 years for conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine, murder for hire and a slew of other crimes. He was released in 2003 for testifying against his former boss, the leader of the Hong Kong-based gang Wo Hop To.
In court Thursday, Jordan also touched on Chow's feud with Kong, who was kicked out of the Hop Sing Tong, a Chinatown club to which they both belonged. Chow had publicly denounced Kong at a Hop Sing Tong election in 2011 as "no longer his brother," after Kong slept with another member's wife. He also made a power play for presidency of the Hop Sing Tong by intimidating elder members.
In April 2012, Chow told Jordan that a local television station had called him, saying they had received a tip that Chow was an extortionist.
Referring to Kong, Jordan said: "It's probably that guy. The guy that got kicked out. Fuck him, man."
Chow replied: "I don't even trip on him. He's trying to slander me like that. It's all good to me. He thinks he's smart. I'm beyond his game. I don't even trip on it. Back in the day, I'd straight check him - 'I'm going to fuck you right now' - and I don't do that no more. I'll wait for him when he get in jail."
Kong was found shot dead in 2013 in Mendocino.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer closed the courtroom for the third consecutive day to protect Jordan's identity. Reporters watched via live video broadcast with Jordan hidden from view.
Jordan's testimony also delved into Chow's connections in San Francisco politics. In September 2012, Chow complained to Jordan in a taped conversation: "This city look a lot more cleaner, but actually a lot more dirty, you know. The politicians are more dirtier."
A few days before he made this comment, on Sept. 7, Chow was honored by the Ghee Kung Tong with a "Change Agent" award. Jordan attended as a distinguished guest, alongside political consultant Keith Jackson and his son Brandon.
The elder Jackson was former state Sen. Leland Yee's campaign manager, and president of the San Francisco school board.
Jordan testified that Jackson had "approached me at a previous meeting and asked me if I was able to procure narcotics. I told him I had connects."
Jordan said the Jacksons were already trafficking marijuana and were looking for a source of supply for marijuana and cocaine.
Jackson gave a speech that night at the Tong celebration, telling the crowd: "I love Raymond Chow. He's a brother, and the most important thing is, you can never find a friend like Raymond Chow."
Both Jacksons and Yee were arrested with Chow in 2014. All three pleaded guilty to racketeering. They will be sentenced on Dec. 16.Follow @MariaDinzeo
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