Leland Yee- a California state Senator who had ambitions to run for Secretary of State, was arrested as part of a multi-year FBI sting operation on Thursday in San Francisco. The San Francisco Democrat, who authored legislation that would've effectively outlawed ownership of semiautomatic firearms in California, is accused of taking bribes and conspiring to traffic arms with Islamist rebels in the Philippines. According to the federal complaint, the FBI sought to infiltrate a Chinatown triad run by Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow by setting up an elaborate sting and using informants and undercover agents from Hawaii, San Francisco and Atlanta. The list of charges against Yee, Chow and Jackson reads like a pulp novel.
By 2011, undercover agents were in regular contact with not only Chow but State Senator Leland Yee's then-chief of staff Keith Jackson, who served as the president of San Francisco's Board of Education in the 1990s and was also arrested on charges of drug trafficking and murder for hire.
In September 2011, Jackson, Chow and Yee were approached by an undercover agent posing as an Atlanta-based real estate developer who donated $500 to Yee's mayoral campaign. Within days, Yee was calling the developer asking for more money and in October 2011 the developer handed Jackson a $5,000 check made out to his consulting firm but with clear instructions that the cash was meant for Yee's mayoral campaign. However, Yee lost the November 2011 San Francisco mayor's race and was anxious to retire some $70,000 in campaign debt before gearing up for a run at California's Secretary of State.
The developer then introduced Yee and Jackson to a Silicone Valley tech executive- also an undercover FBI agent- who Yee agreed to steer state contracts towards in exchange for campaign donations of $10,000 or more funneled through Jackson's consulting firm.
However, the most explosive and damning charges against Yee stemmed from a meeting with an agent posing as an east coast mobster in San Francisco where Yee offered to facilitate a meeting with an arms dealer who could clandestinely smuggle a number of weapons from Asia in exchange for more campaign donations. Yee asked the mobster to furnish a list of desired weapons and boasted of contacts in the Philippines and Russia who furnished arms for fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The organization, which operates under the EXTREMELY misleading acronym of MILF, is responsible for a decades-long series of massacres, kidnappings and beheadings in Mindanao during their insurgency against the Philippine military.
According to the Federal affidavit, Yee knew exactly who he was dealing with. After nickel and diming the undercover agent for his fee to arrange a meeting with the arms dealer, Yee was also furnished a list of arms that included M-16 automatic rifles and shoulder-fired missile launchers.
Yee reportedly enlisted the aid of a Daly City, CA dentist who had contacts within the Philippines to hammer out the details of the $2 million arms deal.
On Wednesday, Yee and 26 others were arrested by federal agents while FBI and officers from the California Highway Patrol in Sacramento were seen carrying boxes of documents from Yee's State Senate office.
In addition to the arms trafficking and quid-pro-quo, Yee also reportedly arranged for introducing an FBI agent posing as a marijuana grower to a number of as-of-yet-unnamed state lawmakers to discuss California's medical marijuana policy in exchange for $20,000 cash.
Yee was one of three Democrats the state Senate voted to suspend this week. Democrat Ron Calderon [D- Montebello] is accused of taking $100,000 in bribes to support tax credits for movie studios to film in-state and preserve a legislative loophole for a hospital that was bilking taxpayer dollars from the state.
State Senator Rod Wright [D- Inglewood] had also been found guilty of voter fraud and perjury after lying about living outside of the district. The senate voted 28-1 to suspend all three lawmakers (with pay)- the lone dissenting vote was State Senator Joel Anderson [R- El Cajon] who thought Yee, Wright and Calderon should be expelled without pay.
As for Yee's gun control law, SB 249 breezed through the Democrat controlled Senate and Assembly but was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown in late 2013.