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Ex-senator faces 20 years in prison

Updated: 2015-07-03 10:55
By Niu Yue in New York (China Daily USA)

Leland Yee, former California state senator, pleads guilty to felony RICO, wire fraud

Former California state Senator Leland Y. Yee could face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines after pleading guilty to a felony charge on racketeering in an organized crime and public corruption case.

Yee, 66, entered the plea on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco.

He admitted to a long list of crimes, including wire fraud and quid pro quo favors in return for campaign contributions when running for election as secretary of state.

Yee was arrested with 19 others in March 2014 in a series of federal raids in the Bay Area and Sacramento aimed at corruption and gang activity. Yee pleaded not guilty to money laundering, bribery and other felony charges at the time. In July 2014, federal racketeering charges against him were added in a revised grand jury indictment.

In his plea agreement, Yee acknowledged accepting $11,000 in exchange for setting up a meeting with another state senator, $10,000 for recommending someone for a grant, and $6,800 for providing a certificate to Ghee Kung Tong, the Chinese fraternal organization.

He also acknowledged that he discussed helping an undercover FBI agent with an international weapon deal in exchange for campaign contribution at the time of running for secretary of state.

Yee was also accused of exchanging for donations from undercover FBI agents, as he sought to dig himself out of a $70,000 debt incurred during a failed San Francisco mayoral bid, according to the court documents.

Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board member who acted as Yee's consultant and fundraiser, also pleaded guilty to the same racketeering charge as Yee.

Yee was set to go on trial on political corruption, money laundering and gun trafficking charges in August along with Keith Jackson, his son, Brandon Jackson, and former sports agent Marlon Sullivan.

Assistant US Attorney Susan Badger told the court that Yee's sentence could include $250,000 in fines. At least $33,000 in assets will be seized.

Yee's sentencing is scheduled for Oct 21.

Yee had served as a state Senator since 2006. The former Democratic candidate for secretary of the state is best known for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws.

Also arrested in the 2014 raids was Raymond Chow, who is also known as "Shrimp Boy," a former leader of Ghee Kung Tong, a Chinese fraternal organization.

The FBI alleges the association was a racketeering enterprise and that undercover agents laundered $2.6 million in cash from illegal bookmaking through the organization. Chow and others involved are awaiting trial.

Hong Xiao in New York Contributed to this story.

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