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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Slain Man’s Son Points Finger at ‘Shrimp Boy’

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - The son of a businessman who was murdered in his Chinatown shop testified Wednesday that his father had started carrying a gun and was "always on guard" in the weeks before he was killed.

Clifton Leung, 36, told the jury in Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow's federal racketeering trial that he and his father had discussed what was making him nervous. Clifton Leung said he started sticking close to his father, even driving him home after work.

"I would wait for him to get off work and accompany him home," Leung said. "He was always on guard."

Before he was murdered, Allen 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 succeeded Leung as dragon head of the Ghee Kung Tong.

Earlier in the trial, FBI Agent William Wu testified that Allen Leung had confided to him that he feared for his life after he denied Chow a $100,000 loan.

Wu wanted Leung to wear a wire but Leung refused. Wu said Leung was worried that Chow would discover the wire and kill him.

Then someone fired two shots at the Hop Sing Tong's headquarters. The gunman was Thau Benh Cam, a drug dealer who testified Tuesday that Chow had ordered him to do the job. Cam said he participated in two earlier aborted attempts to murder Leung, at Chow's direction.

On Wednesday, Clifton Leung said that a month or two before his father was killed, Chow's close associate Raymond Lei, whom Leung had known for 10 years, dropped by his father's store on Jackson Street in Chinatown.

"He came to talk about doing some shark fin business with my father," Leung said. Lei had never come into the shop on business before. After asking about shark fin prices, Leung said, Lei pointed to some cameras in the shop.

"He asked my father if those cameras recorded," Leung said. "He [Allen Leung] turned to me and asked if they worked. I said no."

Allen Leung was murdered on Feb. 27, 2006, when a gunman burst into the shop, pulled on a mask and shouted, "Robbery!" He shot Leung in front of his wife and a longtime friend, Jack Lee, who fled.

Chow was the only one who wore white to Leung's funeral, a move that has proved controversial. His defense team claims in a court filing that "the white suit he wore was a sign of humility and respect," but the government, which named its five-year undercover FBI probe of Chow "operation white suit," took it as an affront.

Assistant U.S. Attorney William Frentzen asked Clifton Leung if Chow had asked anyone in his family for permission to wear white.

Leung answered "no," then said, "I was confused. I didn't know what it meant."

Leung, who said he wasn't active in either the Hop Sing or Ghee Kung Tong, started attending Hop Sing meetings in 2008 and ran for president of the Hop Sing in 2011.

At the time, Hop Sing member Jim Tat Kong also was thinking of running, but Chow and Lei opposed him, allegedly because Kong had broken a tong rule by sleeping with another member's wife.

Kong withdrew and backed Leung, who said he too faced opposition from Chow and Lei, for being too young. Nonetheless, Leung was elected, and took office in 2012.

About two months the election, Chow asked to meet with him. Leung testified that they had lunch in Chinatown.

Leung said Chow held his hand.

"Did he ask you anything about your father?" Frentzen asked.

Leung: "Yes, he had asked me if I thought he killed my father. I said no."

Frentzen: "Did you mean no, at that time?"

Leung: "Well, I didn't know what I meant. I wouldn't say yes. I didn't know what to think."

Leung said that in 2013 Chow introduced him to David Jordan, who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent posing as an East Coast mobster.

Frentzen asked, "Did he say you should try to do anything with David Jordan?"

"He said we should discuss possible business," Leung said.

Chow was arrested on March 26, 2014, in a massive FBI sting that netted 29 defendants, including former Democratic state Sen. Leland Yee, who ended up pleading guilty to racketeering.

After the arrests, Leung said, he was contacted by one of Chow's attorneys, Curtis Briggs, who asked him to meet Briggs at his office. There, he said, he was asked to sign a "semi-prepared" statement "saying that he was a good person and helping the community."

Leung did not sign the statement.

At a hearing outside the presence of the jury, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said he was concerned about that meeting coming into the case.

"My concern is that it makes an attorney a witness in a case he's currently trying. What's unusual about it is the suggestion that an attorney put something in front of a witness that's untrue and the witness refused to sign it. By untrue I mean inconsistent with witness's recollection of events or interest in signing it," Breyer said.

Turning to Briggs, he said: "It's hardly irrelevant to have the son of man allegedly murdered by your client being asked to sign a character witness."

Frentzen said he brought up the statement because the defense has repeatedly attacked the prosecution's cooperating witnesses for talking to the government.

"There has been ad nauseam discussions about various witnesses' interactions with the government. I can't even count how many," Frentzen said.

Briggs said he could not recall ever giving Leung a declaration to sign, and that it's not his practice to do so.

"I asked if he'd be willing to be a character reference, and we could go over discovery and we could have a declaration prepared. He never followed through," Briggs said.

Breyer said that incident will not be brought up again, for now.

"I think we're going to leave this subject alone. But depending on the nature of the cross, it may be reopened," the judge said.

The government is expected to wrap up its case on Friday.

The defense is set to start Monday, Dec. 21, and has given the prosecution a list of 37 potential witnesses.

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