Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, who has a criminal history in Chinese gangs and was indicted along with Sen. Leland Yee and a slew of others in a high-profile FBI operation, was denied bail June 11.
U.S. Magistrate Nathanael Cousins struck down his defense attorneys' motion for pretrial release on the grounds that Chow might pose a danger to the community due to his position as leader of the Chee Kung Tong (CKT), characterized as a Chinese crime syndicate by the FBI. Chow's charges include seven counts of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to sell stolen cigarettes, and two counts of conspiracy to sell stolen liquor.
"The government’s advancing this conspiracy theory that my client is in charge of this organized crime syndicate. On that basis the judge is deciding to hold him," said defense attorney Curtis Briggs. "It’s the Chinese Freemasons, it’s not a crime syndicate," Briggs added. "It’s a fraternal organization. They’re going to be muddied up and dirtied up because the govermnent is pursing a racketeering case against them."
Another wrinkle: "Now the government's issued a deportation warrant againt him," Briggs noted. "Even if we got him out, he'd be in immigration custody."
A 23-page motion for release on bail for Chow, filed by Briggs and attorneys Gregory Bentley and Tony Serra, paints a very different picture of the targeted Chinatown figure than the all-powerful gangster portrayed by federal authorities.
The FBI complaint, unveiled in March, paints Chow as an international crime boss holding “supreme authority” as Dragonhead of the CKT.
In this role, the FBI charged, Chow was “the supervisor” of criminal relationships between Yee, political consultant Keith Jackson, and Chow’s associates, who had knowledge of and approved all criminal operations of the CKT and received payment for the various criminal dealings he facilitated. The complaint even noted that Chow had once told an undercover FBI agent that he served as a judge within the CKT; “if one member kills another member, Chow decides if the killing was justified.”
The mob boss who had returned yet again to a life of crime, all while swearing he'd given it all up, couldn't be more different from the humble ex-convict described in his defense attorneys' motion for release. Yee and Jackson, who faced charges on firearms trafficking, among other counts, were released on bail totaling $500,000 and $250,000, respectively. Prior to being taken into custody, Chow had already been wearing an ankle monitoring bracelet due to his pending case with immigration authorities.
In letters of support written on his behalf referenced in the motion, Chow was described as a community leader whose actions in recent years stemmed from nothing less than “a spiritual commitment … to make the San Francisco community a better place for all people even if it came at a great personal sacrifice to him.” A letter of support was even written by Wendy MacNaughton, an illustrator, journalist and author of Meanwhile in San Francisco.
Chow had apparently been working on his autobiography prior to being taken down by the FBI.
— Raymond Chow (@RaymondChow10) October 8, 2013
The motion recounts how Chow, born into “devastating financial conditions” in China, was taken in by the Chinese Triad at the age of seven “and for the next ten years scraped by and supported himself and his family through Triad related activities.” At 16, he was arrested and beaten by Chinese police in custody. Soon after, his family fled to the United States for a better life.
“Chow was recruited by local Chinatown so-called ‘gangs,’” the motion states. “As with many immigrant children with no resources, Chow was exploited by these groups for his desperate need for protection, acceptance, and recognition.” He served multiple prison sentences for various gang-related criminal activities.
But in 2003, when he was serving out a ten-year prison term, Chow "became thoroughly disenchanted with the criminal lifestyle," his defense attorneys wrote. "His revelation occurred when the façade of the gangster life disintegrated as each and every one of his criminal associates, people who he thought of as ‘brothers,’ turned their back on him and participated in activities which blatantly harmed the community.”
Chow's girlfriend, Alicia Lo, had volunteered to act as a third-party custodian and post property bonds on her two San Francisco properties in order to facilitate his pretrial release.
In written testimony, she described him as caring and generous, saying she would buy him “second-hand clothes so he looked sharp in public," only to later discover that he "would at times give these clothes away to addicts on the street so they could look presentable at job interviews.”
Yet in making his determination, the federal magistrate noted that there is "more than clear and convincing evidence that Mr. Chow would pose a danger to the community" if released.