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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Murder Took Three Tries, Gangster Testifies

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow arranged the murder of a business rival after two previous attempts to kill him failed, a gangster serving 18 years for drug dealing testified Tuesday.

Thau Benh Cam, also known as Kevin, told the jury in Chow's federal racketeering trial that Chow was complaining about his problems with Allen Leung for two months before Leung was killed in 2006, in the presence of his wife , in his Chinatown import-export shop.

Cam was arrested in a drug bust in 2008. He fought the case initially, but pleaded guilty in 2012.

Before he was murdered, Leung was dragon head of the Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinese fraternal organization with ties to the Hop Sing Tong, a Chinese gang. Chow held positions in both groups, and was said to be responsible for reviving the Hop Sing Tong's criminal element in the 1990s.

"He was complaining how he don't get a share of money from the Chinese government that sponsored the Tong every year and that Allen Leung was not promoting younger members in the Tong to make the family grow," Cam testified Tuesday. He said Chow was supporting Hop Sing Tong associate Raymond Lei to take over Leung's position as dragon head.

Sitting in a sauna in an Oakland massage parlor, Cam said, Chow told him to "coordinate with Raymond Lei to get rid of Allen Leung."

"What did that mean to you?" Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen asked.

Cam: "Take care of him."

Frentzen: "What does that mean?"

Cam: "To murder him."

Lei gave him Leung's license plate number and business address, Cam said.

He said he told Lei: "If you would offer money, I could find people to do the hit. I ran it through Chow and he said, 'You and Lei handle it.'"

Cam said Lei offered him $20,000.

Cam went to work surveilling Leung's Jackson street store. His testimony corroborated that of Kongphet "Joe" Chanthavong, who told the jury in November that Lei and Cam had recruited him to help with the murder plot.

Chanthavong said that shortly before Leung's murder on Feb. 27, 2006, he had been summoned to a hotel near the San Francisco airport where Cam was holed up with several of his "boys" from Sacramento. The murder was to go down that night, and Cam had stolen a getaway car for the job.

Chanthavong said he backed out of the plot, which Cam confirmed on Tuesday.

Cam said he called off the murder. "We got cold feet," he said.

Then another opportunity arose. Cam said Lei called him to say Leung was throwing a banquet at a restaurant on Grant Street in San Francisco and that they would nail him as soon as he left.

"He told me to get ready," Cam said. "If there was the opportunity, we were going to try to do the hit."

Cam drove to Chinatown and parked outside the Dragon Gate that marked its entrance. He said Lei called him to say Leung was "coming out."

"I started my car and drove by the restaurant, but I missed him," Cam said. At that point, Cam said, he was no longer willing to go through with the murder. He said he called Lei and told him he was out.

Cam testified that he found out about Leung's murder through Chow, who called him up and told him that Leung had been shot.

"He told me this afternoon that Allen Leung got killed," Cam said. "He told me to bring some boys, dress in all black to pay respect and try to support Raymond Lei at the funeral."

Cam took 50 boys from Sacramento and Oakland to the funeral, but Lei never got to be dragon head.

"After the funeral, Lei and Chow got into an argument. He was saying the way he carry himself and do things, nobody respect him," Cam told the jury.

Chow ended up as the dragon head, and Cam attended his induction.

Chow is accused of running the Ghee Kung Tong as a criminal enterprise that trafficked in drugs, guns and stolen goods, and of conspiracy to commit murder in aid of racketeering. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison.

The jury was shown a photograph of Chow dressed in red and sitting on a throne, surrounded by Cam and at least 15 of his boys, all of whom had criminal histories that included, according to Cam, robbing marijuana grows, drug dealing and drive-by shootings.

Cam said he and his boys were later inducted into the Ghee Kung Tong.

"Who brought you into the GKT?" Frentzen asked.

Cam answered, "Chow."

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