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Sen. Leland Yee charged with firearms trafficking, fraud

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Federal investigators unsealed the criminal complaint against California Senator Leland Yee and 25 other defendants today, charging the politician with firearms trafficking and six counts of fraud related to campaign contributions.

Yee, a Democrat who represents San Mateo County and part of San Francisco County, has been a vocal opponent of video game violence and the game industry practices, as well as a proponent of gun control. Yee famously sponsored the 2005 bill that became the basis for Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a 2011 Supreme Court decision that ruled that video games are protected speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

He was arrested this morning in an FBI raid.

According to a press release and criminal complaint (PDF) published by U.S. Attorneys, Yee and another defendant, Keith Jackson, allegedly raised campaign funds for the senator's Secretary of State campaign by "soliciting donations from FBI undercover agents, in exchange for multiple official acts."

Jackson, a consultant involved in raising campaign funds for Yee since 2011, allegedly solicited an undercover FBI agent to make contributions to Yee's San Francisco mayoral campaign, donations in excess of the individual limit of $500, the complaint reads. Yee and Jackson are also charged with soliciting another undercover agent, resulting in a personal donation of $5,000 to the politician's failed mayoral campaign.

In August 2013, Jackson is alleged to have solicited a donation from one of the agents in order for Yee to "facilitate a meeting with the arms dealer with the intent of the undercover agent to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons." Yee and Jackson allegedly discussed the specific types of weapons the undercover agent was interested in buying and importing, the complaint says.

The multiple violations Yee is charged with carry between five and 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count.

Yee's arrest is tied to a larger investigation of the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization and its leader, Dragonhead Raymond "Shrimpboy" Chow, who investigators said exhibited a pattern of alleged racketeering activity. Chow was arrested on money laundering, stolen property and contraband cigarette tracking charges.

Polygon left a message with Senator Yee's office seeking comment.

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