Leland Yee Diversity Update: How He Ratted Out His Chinese Colleague
First, the clever animators of Taiwan illustrate the corruption case of California State Senator Leland Yee so far:
But Yee went full-tilt arms merchant to Islamic terrorists.
Aside from the whole grade-B movie aspect of Chinatown gangsters (“Shrimp Boy” Chow), weapons trafficking and cocaine, the case is a window on San Francisco Chinese politics, and it’s not a pretty picture.
Rather than a kumbaya scene of ethnic solidarity celebrated over bowls of expensive shark fin soup, we see unseemly competition, bribery and sabotage of rivals. Immigrant Leland Yee ratted out fellow Chinese pol Ed Jew to the authorities about extortion activities. Jew, the one-time San Francisco Supervisor, spent five years in prison until recently, which did clear the political field somewhat for Yee.
Calif. state Sen. Yee had role in case against Ed Jew, by Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, San Francisco Chronicle, March 27, 2014
Seven years after tattling to the feds about onetime protege Ed Jew extorting bubble tea shopkeepers, state Sen. Leland Yee finds himself in the middle of his own corruption case.
Yee’s criminal troubles come just as Jew, the disgraced former San Francisco supervisor, has returned to the city after nearly five years in federal prison for extortion and bribery.
Also described as “Uncle Leland” in court documents, Yee was charged Wednesday with conspiring to traffic in firearms and scheming to defraud citizens of honest services as part of a wide corruption investigation involving a well-known Chinatown gangster and 24 others.
The criminal complaint says Yee was introduced to an FBI agent last year posing as a donor seeking influence over medical marijuana legislation in exchange for contributing to the senator’s campaign for secretary of state.
Back in 2007, however, it was Yee who went to the FBI with the explosive allegations that Jew had been shaking down tapioca-drink store owners seeking city permits in the Sunset.
Yee allegedly first heard about the shakedown of the Quickly bubble tea shop owners from Jaynry Mak, a onetime City Hall aide who lost to Jew in the 2006 District Four supervisor’s race.
Yee soon took the information to Steven Gruel, a former federal prosecutor whom the senator had known for years. Gruel arranged a meeting with the FBI’s public corruptions unit.
“I gave them all the information I had,” Yee told us at the time.
Over the next few weeks, the FBI wired up one of the businessmen who had been dealing with Jew and set up a $40,000 payoff to the supervisor at his Chinatown flower shop.
Ironically, after his arrest, Jew asked Yee for the name of a good lawyer – and Yee referred him to Gruel, who wound up briefly handling his case until they parted ways over strategy.
Jew eventually pleaded guilty to mail fraud, extortion and soliciting a bribe. Facing years in prison, however, he reportedly began singing to the feds – telling them that he had learned about how to trade cash for favors from Chinese American politicos, including Yee.
As one source close to the case told us at the time, “If you wanted something done, you handed over a red envelope filled with cash” – a traditional gift in the Chinese community. “The understanding was that some of the money would go to community projects of the politician’s choosing and some would go to the politician.”
Jew’s current attorney, Stuart Hanlon, told us Wednesday that “we had some dirt on Leland, but it never went anywhere.”
“Ed said that Leland taught him how to raise money, and it was not the way that normal people do it.”
Jew still faces about a year in County Jail on a state conviction for lying about where he lived when he ran for supervisor.
As for why Yee might have fingered his client whom he had considered a friend?
“We never knew why they went to the FBI,” Hanlon said. “I don’t think it was in the interest of justice – I think it was to get rid of a competitor.”
Yee, by the way, denied ever taking cash for anything. But then, from the looks of the latest charges, he’ll have plenty of explaining to do.