California Dem Leland Yee faces conspiracy, wire fraud charges

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Yee’s arrest came as a shock to Chinese-Americans who see the senator as a pioneering leader in the community and a mainstay of San Francisco politics, said David Lee, director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee.

“People are waiting to see what happens, and they are hoping for the best, that the charges turn out not to be true,” said Lee, whose organization just held a get-out-the-vote event with Yee and other Chinese-American elected officials last week.

For his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act, Yee was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which awarded him its public official citation for his efforts last year to maintain the requirements of the California Public Records Act.

Yee has at times clashed with fellow Democrats for casting votes of conscience, refusing to support the Democratic budget proposal in 2011 because of its deep cuts to education, social services and education. He also opposed legislation by a fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Paul Fong of Cupertino, that banned the sale of shark fins used for Chinese shark fin soup, saying that it unfairly targeted the Chinese-American community.

Yee is among three Democrats running this year for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections and campaign finance reporting. He lost a bid for mayor of San Francisco in 2011.

A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons. The bill would have prohibited the use of devices that allow users to swiftly reload military-style assault weapons. Lee also authored legislation that that would have required the state to study safe storage of firearms.

Chow acknowledged in an unpublished autobiography that he ran prostitution rings in the 1980s, smuggled drugs and extorted thousands from business owners as a Chinatown gang member, KGO-TV reported two years ago.

In 1992, Chow was among more than two-dozen people indicted on racketeering charges for their alleged involvement in crimes ranging from teenage prostitution to an international drug trade mostly involving heroin.

He was later convicted of gun charges and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He spent 11 years in prison and was released in 2003 after he cut a deal with the government to testify against another high-ranking associate, Peter Chong. Chong was later convicted of racketeering.

But Chow told KGO-TV in a 2012 interview that he had changed and was working with at-risk children in San Francisco.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California issued a statement in 2012 recognizing Chow as a former offender who had become an asset to his community, the Sacramento Bee reported. Chow was also praised by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee for his “willingness to give back to the community,” the Bee reported.

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