During his bid for Mayor of San Francisco and later running for Secretary of State, former California, Senator Leland Yee admitted this week that he accepted bribes, extorted money and once offered to smuggle weapons from the Philippines for undercover FBI agents who he believed were connected to a New Jersey mob.
Yee, 66, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to racketeering charges in connection with two criminal enterprises during an afternoon appearance in federal court in San Francisco. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution for each of the two counts. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer is scheduled to hand down a sentence on Oct. 21.
As part of the plea agreement, Yee pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge so the remaining charges would be dismissed.
"Mr. Yee must now live with the consequences of betraying the trust that was placed in him when he became a public servant," U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a prepared statement. "It is particularly disappointing and troubling when our elected officials violate their obligation to fairly represent their constituents. This office will continue to devote the resources necessary to ensure that our elected officials govern within the law."
Yee, a Democrat who represented San Mateo County and part of San Francisco County, was a vocal opponent of video game violence and the game industry practices, as well as a proponent of gun control. Yee 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 in March, 2014, during a morning FBI riad.
According to the indictment, he and defendant Keith Jackson raised campaign funds for both Yee's Secretary of State campaign and run for Mayor by seeking donations from undercover FBI agents, in exchange for a range of requests.
On Wednesday both Yee and Jackson, a consultant who had been helping Yee raise funds since 2011, pleaded guilty to multiple charges against them.
In court Wednesday, Yee detailed seven different acts he committed as part of the racketeering charges. Yee says he:
- Accepted $10,000 to give a California Department of Public Health grant to a specific business.
- Accepted $6,800 to honor the San Francisco-based Chee Kung Tong organization and its leader, Dragonhead Raymond "Shrimpboy" Chow. Investigators said Chow exhibited a pattern of racketeering activity. He was arrested on money laundering, stolen property and contraband cigarette tracking charges.
- Threatened to vote against legislation unless campaign support was forthcoming from an unnamed individual who wanted the legislation to pass.
- Accepted $11,000 to arrange a meeting between another senator and someone interested in new statewide marijuana legislation.
- Agreed to trade his vote on upcoming worker's compensation legislation for campaign contributions.
- Talked to an undercover FBI agent about importing automatic weapons and ammo from the Philippines into the country and to New Jersey to distribute to others.
- Gave cash to Jackson in exchange for a check made out to his campaign in an attempt to money launder the bribes he was receiving.
On January 29, 2015, a federal grand jury indicted Yee under a second superseding indictment with a number of conspiracy charges.
Yee's arrest and subsequent indictment is part of a larger investigation into the Chee Kung Tong organization. Chee Kung Tong, a predominantly Chinese American association, based in Chinatown in San Francisco, was formed primarily for civic purposes to benefit the communities of Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans, according to court records. The group has members who are only involved in the civic functions, and others who are involved in criminal activity, according to court records.