- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SAN FRANCISCO — A California state senator who was lauded for his efforts to make government more transparent and authored gun control legislation was arrested Wednesday, accused of conspiracy to deal firearms and wire fraud.

The allegations against State Sen. Leland Yee were outlined in an FBI affidavit in support of a criminal complaint against him and 25 other people. The affidavit was unsealed on Wednesday, as Yee was scheduled to appear in court.

Yee performed “official acts” in exchange 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 court documents.

Yee is also accused of accepting $10,000 in January 2013 from an undercover agent in exchange for his making a call to the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract under consideration with the agency.

Also named in the affidavit is Raymond Chow. Chow, who is also known as “Shrimp Boy,” was the former leader of a Chinese criminal organization with ties to Hong Kong.

Chow is accused of money laundering, conspiracy to receive and transport stolen property and conspiracy to traffic contraband cigarettes.

He and Yee were arrested earlier in the day during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The agency was executing numerous arrests and search warrants in the Bay Area, FBI Special Agent Michael Gimbel said outside the offices of Ghee Kung Tong, a fraternal organization in San Francisco’s Chinatown that Chow reportedly headed. It was among the sites searched. Firefighters were seen going inside with a circular saw and later said they had cracked a safe.

Yee is the third Democratic senator to face charges this year. Sen. Rod Wright was convicted of perjury and voter fraud for lying about his legal residence in Los Angeles County, and Sen. Ron Calderon has been indicted on federal corruption charges. Wright and Calderon are taking a voluntary leave of absence, with pay, although Republicans have called for them to be suspended or expelled from the Legislature.

Mark Hedlund, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, confirmed that the FBI searched Yee’s office in the state capitol on Wednesday, but he said he had no information about the arrest.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he had no comment and did not know anything about the investigation.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Senate sergeant-at-arms details were standing guard outside Yee’s office, where a morning newspaper remained untouched.

Yee, 65, represents western San Francisco and much of San Mateo County. A spokesman for the senator, Dan Lieberman, said he had no comment, but the senator’s office would release a statement in the afternoon.

He is best known publicly for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws, including legislation to close a loophole in state public records laws after the CSU Stanislaus Foundation refused to release its $75,000 speaking contract with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2010.

Chow ran a Chinese criminal organization with ties to Hong Kong and was convicted of gun charges. But he had recently been held up as an example of successful rehabilitation and was praised for his work in the community.

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