The lead undercover FBI agent in the investigation of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow testified in federal court in San Francisco Tuesday that he paid Chow for introducing him to associates with whom he could carry out crimes.
“I paid him for facilitating relationships. He introduced me so that I could conduct illegal activities with his associates,” the agent known as “Dave Jordan” told the jury at Chow’s racketeering and murder trial.
The agent, whose real name was not disclosed, said he posed for nearly four years as a Mafia member from the East Coast who wanted to launder money and sell purportedly stolen cigarettes and liquor.
The agent said that when offered cash compensation for the introductions, “Mr. Chow would say ad nauseam, ‘No, no, no,'” but that Chow “always” accepted the money.
Prosecutor Ralph Frentzen asked, “Did Mr. Chow ever turn down money from you?” “Never,” the agent replied.
Chow, 55, is the leader or “dragonhead” of the Chee Kung Tong fraternal association. He is charged with the 2006 murder of his predecessor, racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to murder another rival, money laundering and conspiring to receive stolen goods.
His lawyers contend he turned his life around after previous racketeering and gun-dealing convictions and is now a “visionary leader” dedicated to turning Chinatown youth away from crime.
To protect the agent’s identity, the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer was closed to the public and the media, but the proceedings could be viewed in a separate room via a live feed, with the witness stand not visible to spectators.
Jordan began testifying in mid-afternoon today and is expected to continue on the stand for hours more to authenticate the dozens of recordings he made of conversations with Chow and others by means of a device hidden in his clothing. The three-month trial began last week.
Jordan was introduced to Chow in May 2010 by another undercover FBI agent who was posting as a businessman named Jimmy Chen.
In March 2014, Chow and about two dozen others were arrested on racketeering and other charges. The probe also ensnared former state Sen.
Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and his fundraiser, Keith Jackson, who were accused of accepting bribes in the form of campaign contributions in exchange for political favors by Yee.
Eventually, 29 people were indicted. Thirteen have pleaded guilty to various charges, including Yee, Jackson and four associates of Chow’s who agreed to become prosecution witnesses in the current trial.
Jordan testified today that the person he posed as was “unsavory, amoral, engaged in a lot of illegal activities, vulgar, profane and racist.” He said he told Chow and others he had come to the West Coast to launder millions of dollars his family gained each month from illegal sports betting operations in California and Las Vegas as well as from a supposed marijuana plantation in Mendocino County.
As part of his cover story, or “legend” in FBI parlance, he bankrolled expensive meals and drinks for Chow and others in high-end restaurants and clubs, Jordan testified.
The agent said, “It was my understanding that Mr. Chow always felt he was being recorded,” but said that after about a year and one-half, Chow appeared to “let down his guard a little bit more” in his conversations.
Jordan testified that in 2011, Chow told him he wanted to take revenge on Jim Tat Kong, a rival leader of the Hop Sing Tong group, and had announced that Kong was “no longer my brother.” “He told me that when he said that, there would be people lined up in the street to take vengeance on Mr. Kong,” the agent said.
Chow is accused of conspiring to murder Kong, who was found fatally shot in his car in Mendocino County in 2013.
At the end of today’s court session, Frentzen asked the agent to authenticate a recording of a 2011 meeting in Las Vegas in which Jordan and Kevin Siu, who had been introduced to Jordan by Chow, discussed an apparent cocaine deal.
The agent said Siu appeared to be testing him to “to see if I really was who I said I was” and wanted him to snort some cocaine, which would help to prove he was not an undercover officer.
The meeting began with Siu putting a gun and a bag of cocaine on the coffee table in Jordan’s room at the Bellagio Hotel. Jordan said he was unarmed and was “extremely concerned about the gun” but was eventually able to conclude the meeting without taking any cocaine.
The recording did not implicate Chow in the drug deal, although Siu said “both the elders push” Siu and Jordan together. The agent testified “the elders” referred to Chow and Jimmy Chen, the undercover agent who introduced Jordan to Chow.
Siu, 32, of Daly City, pleaded guilty in September to eight counts of money laundering. He is not among the four co-defendants identified by prosecutors as witnesses who will testify against Chow.