Originally published on July 2, 2015, at NationofChange.org
While investigating a Chinese organized crime syndicate operating in San Francisco, undercover FBI agents stumbled upon the illegal activities of a state senator associated with the criminal organization. In a case involving drug deals, gun trafficking, fraudulent credit cards, and a murder-for-hire conspiracy, former California State Senator Leland Yee was caught soliciting bribes, laundering money, and arranging an international illegal arms deal for shoulder-fired weapons and rocket launchers. On Wednesday, Yee pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering and confessed to his direct involvement in multiple conspiracies.
On August 5, 2010, renowned Chinese gangster Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow of the Chee Kung Tong (CKT) organization introduced an undercover FBI agent to CKT consultant and Yee political advisor, Keith Jackson. At Sen. Yee’s behest, Jackson repeatedly requested that the undercover FBI agent contribute to Yee’s campaign for mayor of San Francisco. The FBI agent later introduced Yee and Jackson to several other undercover FBI agents posing as campaign donors seeking political favors from Yee.
On the night of August 16, 2012, Keith Jackson informed the undercover FBI agent that his son, Brandon Jackson, was shipping approximately 300lbs of marijuana each month to Memphis, Tennessee, and asked the agent if he knew any contacts able to acquire large amounts of prescription drugs like Oxycotin or Hydrocodone. For the next year and a half, the Jacksons and their associate, a sports agent named Marlon Sullivan, frequently solicited the FBI agent to provide cocaine for them to sell.
After illegally selling three firearms to the undercover FBI agent on June 24, 2013, the Jacksons and Sullivan sold several handguns, rifles, a shotgun, and two ballistic vests, including one stolen from the FBI, to the undercover agent on the following day. Over the next few months, they continued to illegally sell firearms, discuss drug trafficking deals, and arrange a murder-for-hire plot, while soliciting campaign donations for Yee.
According to the criminal complaint against 26 defendants, including former Sen. Yee, the undercover FBI agent met Jackson and Yee at a coffee shop in San Francisco on January 22, 2014, to negotiate purchasing up to $2.5 million worth of shoulder-fired weapons or missiles and automatic weapons. According to Yee, the international arms dealer would not meet directly with the undercover FBI agent and would only sell the weapons using Yee and Jackson as intermediaries. Four days later, Brandon Jackson sold 25 fraudulent credit cards to the undercover agent posing as a mob associate.
On March 5, 2014, the FBI agent met with Keith Jackson and Sen. Yee at a hotel restaurant in San Francisco to negotiate the firearms trafficking deal. Yee requested campaign contributions from the undercover agent and discussed his relationship with the arms dealer who worked for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an extremist Islamic group located in the Philippines. Yee affirmed that the arms dealer could provide the undercover agent with rocket launchers and shoulder-fired weapons. Nine days later, Yee and Jackson openly informed the FBI agent that they intended to launder his money into legitimate campaign donations for their gun trafficking deal.
On March 24, 2014, a federal criminal complaint was filed against 26 defendants, including Sen. Yee, Chow, Sullivan, and the Jacksons. The original charges ranged from firearms trafficking to money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking in contraband cigarettes, and honest services fraud. On April 3, 2014, a federal grand jury indicted 29 defendants including charges against Yee for honest services conspiracy, wire fraud, and conspiracy to transport and receive stolen property in interstate commerce. Racketeering charges were added later, accusing Yee and Jackson of extorting individuals related to the California State Athletic Commission and the Mixed Martial Arts industry.
On Wednesday, Yee, Sullivan, and the Jacksons each pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering. Accused of accepting $62,000 in campaign contributions in return for legislative favors, Yee confessed to influencing legislation for an NFL team, a medical marijuana dispensary, and a company seeking government technology contracts. Yee also admitted to accepting an $11,000 cash bribe from an undercover FBI agent in 2013 and laundered a $6,800 political contribution to his failed secretary of state campaign in 2014.
Although Yee did not agree to a particular sentencing range in his plea deal, Keith Jackson did agree to a sentencing range of six to ten years after pleading guilty to racketeering. Yee faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for October 21.