In February 2013, California State Sen. Leland Yee was pushing tighter restrictions on Golden State gun owners and months later he was quietly negotiating an illegal gun trafficking scheme in exchange for campaign contributions to help finance his upcoming run for Secretary of State, according to allegations in a federal complaint released yesterday following Yee’s arrest in a massive operation involving raids at several locations in the San Francisco area.
The complaint may be read here.
CBS affiliate KPIX recalled that in 2012, when Yee was supporting a tough gun control law aimed at “keeping guns out of the hands of bad guys.”
“This is not an easy issue,” Yee told a KPIX reporter at the time. “But I am a father, and I want our communities to be safe, and God forbid if one of these weapons fell into the wrong hands.”
Examiner obtained a copy of the federal complaint Wednesday afternoon, after a hearing in federal court in San Francisco.
Yee and more than two dozen others are named in the complaint, which was described as “staggering” by Bellevue gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb, whose press release reacting to yesterday’s stunning arrests was picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle and other news agencies. Gottlieb is chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
“If these allegations are true,” Gottlieb said, “Sen. Yee is easily the biggest hypocrite on gun control to walk the halls of the capitol in Sacramento, if not the entire United States.”
The 137-page complaint contains allegations of gun and drug trafficking, liquor smuggling, money laundering, bribery and other crimes including a conspiracy to commit murder for hire. The complaint alleges that Yee “wanted to build in several layers of protection to shield (another suspect) and anyone else who may be involved with the weapons deal.”
The complaint says he subsequently discussed, with associates, including political consultant Keith Jackson and an undercover FBI agent “how they would break up a large sum of cash provided by (the undercover agent) into legitimate campaign donations.” Jackson and his son, Brandon, are also named in the federal complaint. Keith Jackson, the document says, "has no known criminal convictions."
In the text of the criminal complaint are alleged illegal sales of firearms, all done in violation of California’s so-called “universal background check” law, revealing the perennial flaw in such laws: Criminals do not obey them.
Among the illegal transactions documented in yesterday’s complaint were purchases on June 24 and 25 of last year involving nine firearms, two more transactions on Aug. 5 and 8 totaling seven guns, another sale on Aug 26 for a Tec 9 pistol, and a Sept. 13 transaction for an AK-47 rifle. None of these transactions directly involved Yee, but allegedly involved associates.
Yee’s direct involvement, according to the complaint, came in negotiations with an undercover federal agent who claimed he would spend $2 million for an “initial” weapons purchase involving covert importation from sources in the Philippines. The complaint alleges that Sen. Yee “thought $2 million was a lot of money and said ‘We can’t catch attention to any of this stuff’.”
Yesterday’s arrests came at the end of an investigation that stretches back more than four years and involves a San Francisco crime figure, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, described by the San Jose Mercury News as a “notorious Chinatown gangster.” The FBI affidavit says Yee knows Chow, but says the senator did not trust Chow “because uhm, this guy (Chow) told on his friends.”
That remark alluded to Chow’s publicized cooperation with federal authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence on an earlier charge that sent him to prison. The complaint notes that “Chow currently wears an ankle bracelet and is under the supervision of an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deportation officer.” The document also says Chow is currently awaiting resolution of an application to obtain an “S-visa…which is a type of visa issued to witnesses in criminal proceedings.”
Chow has a lengthy criminal history that includes state felony convictions armed robbery and assault and federal convictions for racketeering “involving murder for hire, conspiracy to distribute heroin, arson, and conspiracy to collect extensions of credit.”
But it is Yee’s arrest and alleged involvement in the gun trafficking effort, along with alleged payoffs and political corruption that is stinging California’s Democrat party to its core. According to Capitol Public Radio this morning, California Senate President Darrell Steinberg has called on Yee to resign
“I want to, on behalf of my colleagues today,” Steinberg said, according to the report, “call on Senator Yee to resign. Leave. Don’t burden your colleagues and this great institution with your troubles. Leave.” Coverage of this development in the Los Angeles Times makes it appear as though Steinberg and his colleagues are ready to throw Yee under the political bus.
The San Francisco Chronicle noted this morning that Yee’s arrest makes it three-in-a-row for embarrassments to California Democrats. The party has a stranglehold on politics in the Golden State, and some observers believe no long term damage will be done to Democrats because of the scandal.
But what about the gun prohibition lobby? Yee’s arrest for charges that include alleged gun trafficking after he championed tough gun control measures in California, and while he associated with people who allegedly sold guns without a license, and in violation of the kind of background check law they are pushing in Washington and other states is a wake-up call showing why such gun laws don’t work.
They especially will not work if, as alleged, those who push such laws are covertly breaking them while expecting everyone else to obey.
Examiner will continue reporting on developments as they unfold.
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