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Millions Laundered By FBI Targets In Calif. Sen. Yee Case

Publication Date: 
April 05, 2014
Source: 
San Francisco Chronicle
Author: 
Henry K. Lee

Professor Robert Weisberg comments on federal prosecutors' case against a notorious Chinatown gangster for The San Francisco Chronicle. 

Reputed San Francisco Chinatown gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow and his associates were making money in illegal ways and needed to hide it from federal authorities, so they funneled it into fake business accounts, according to the FBI - the classic definition of money laundering.

Money-laundering charges are at the center of the criminal case filed by federal prosecutors last month against Chow, 54, and 28 other defendants, including now-suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and his fundraiser, former San Francisco school board President Keith Jackson.

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Such cash typically comes from government seizures or a fund that authorities keep "for stinging people," said Robert Weisberg, a Stanford University law professor.

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In such stings, federal prosecutors would have to prove that although the laundered money didn't come from crimes, the defendants thought it did, Weisberg said.

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But Weisberg said he believed the undercover agents would be deemed "very credible witnesses," and that "entrapment (as a defense) really almost never works, and it's not going to work here."

Defendants with criminal histories like Chow - as opposed to those who have shown "no predisposition toward crime" - will be hard-pressed to argue that they were goaded into laundering money, Weisberg said.

"My view is that this is a case where the law is very simple and the facts may be unclear," he said. "In other words, if the government can prove the facts alleged in this affidavit, I don't see terribly complicated legal issues here."