SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Attorneys for Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow say the FBI unfairly targeted the former Chinatown gangster in a racketeering probe but allowed San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee to get away with taking bribes from undercover agents.
In a scathing document filed Tuesday, lawyers J. Tony Serra, Curtis Briggs and Greg Bentley said Lee “took over $20,000 from federal agents in his first four months in office and hit the ground running as mayor with an enormous amount of reported gifts including paid trips across the world.”
Chow’s attorneys add, “The FBI alleged in discovery that Ed Lee took substantial bribes in exchange for political favors and that human rights commissioners Nazly Mohajer and Zula Jones hustled in these bribes for the mayor.”
Jones allegedly told the FBI that former mayor Willie Brown taught Lee how to do business. The document filed by Chow’s lawyers reports her to have said, “You pay to play here. We got it. We know this. We are the best at this game; uh, better than New York. We do it a little more sophisticated than New Yorkers. We do it without the Mafia.”
Inquiries sent to Lee’s office were referred to spokesman P.J. Johnston from Lee’s re-election camaign.
“We have reviewed today’s filing. While it appears others may have tried to engage or ensnare Mayor Lee, and any number of other people, in their own wrongdoing, there’s absolutely nothing in today’s filing by Raymond Chow’s attorneys that suggests that Mayor Lee himself or his 2011 campaign did anything wrong or inappropriate,” Johnston said in a statement. “Mayor Lee’s campaign is committed to following the letter and spirit of all campaign finance laws. If and when the Mayor’s campaign receives specific information from the government about any questionable contributions, we will take immediate and appropriate actions.”
The filing also implicates San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency employee Sululagi Palega, who allegedly sold a gun to an FBI agent identified as UCE-4599. Palega allegedly met with the agent on March 21, 2013, handed him a Sees Candy box containing a gun and said, “Enjoy the candy.”
Chow’s legal team claims the government was jealous of the gangster’s political influence as a community leader and “pop culture icon,” and his attempts to profit from his life story through book and film rights.
Their document also says Chow was selectively targeted because of his association with the Ghee Kong Tong, described by Chow’s lawyers as the “Chinese Free Masons.”
According to the lawyers, the FBI began investigating Chow in earnest “solely for political reasons” in 2009.
“The investigation stagnated quickly and is characterized by literally years of attempting to lure Chow into breaking the law to no avail,” the attorneys say in the document. “Four years later and still bankrolled by the taxpayer, government has admitted that the political corruption investigation instigated contrary to the desire of the government; what it has not admitted is that it resulted in snagging at least a dozen bottom-feeding political types. These well-known locals were inching each other out of the way for the next bundle of cash.”
The FBI eventually rounded up Chow and 27 other defendants, including former state Sen. Leland Yee and former San Francisco school board president Keith Jackson.
The government’s indictment says Yee agreed to vote on certain legislation and help phony companies get state grants and contracts, and offered to import guns from a suspected terrorist group in the Philippines in exchange for campaign donations.
Jackson is accused of arranging the meetings and soliciting the donations.
Yee had been looking to retire debt from a failed 2011 San Francisco mayoral bid and raise money for his subsequent campaign for secretary of state.
Chow is charged with laundering gambling and drug money from an undercover FBI agent posing as a member of New Jersey mob syndicate La Cosa Nostra and conspiring to sell contraband cigarettes.
Yee and Jackson pleaded guilty in July to one count of felony racketeering. All other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.
Chow is scheduled to go to trial in October. His lawyers have asked that the charges against him be dismissed.
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