Left: Raymond 'Shrimp Boy' Chow. Right: California State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco)
SAN FRANCISCO -- On March 5, state Sen. Leland Yee tweeted a picture of himself from City Hall's election office, raising his hand and swearing to be a faithful public servant. "I've officially filed for Secretary of State!" Yee exclaimed to his 5,646 followers.
But later that very same day in a hotel restaurant, Yee was anything but faithful.
Julia Prodis Sulek and Aaron Kinney of the San Jose Mercury News report that authorities say the man who built a reputation as a champion of open government and gun control was negotiating the terms of an international gun-trafficking deal, peddling M-16-style rifles and rocket launchers to an eager buyer who was actually an undercover FBI agent.
So who is the real Leland Yee? Could a seemingly earnest public servant from San Francisco really be so duplicitous, so corrupt, so morally depraved?
In interviews with those who know him, public records searches and reviews of his social media accounts, a portrait emerges of a career politician desperate to pay off campaign debt, a political loner who appeared to have better luck building relationships with criminals than with colleagues and an uncharismatic candidate anticipating his political mortality and dreaming one day of "hiding out" in the Philippines.
Saying he was unhappy with his life, the married father of four told an agent posing as an East Coast mobster, "There's part of me that wants to be like you ... Just be a free-agent out there."
Federal agents arrested Yee on Wednesday before any gun deal took place. Maybe Yee, a child psychologist whose first elected office was on the school board, was just bluffing about knowing arms dealers. Wouldn't it be something if a fake arms dealer was meeting with a fake mobster to set up a fake arms sale? The FBI doesn't think so. Yee is charged with seven felonies, including public corruption and arms trafficking. Out of jail on $500,000 bail, he has yet to enter a plea but withdrew from the race for secretary of state.
The 137-page affidavit detailing Yee's alleged corruption and entanglements with a Chinatown mob boss named "Shrimp Boy," a former school board president accused of murder-for-hire, and a Daly City dentist allegedly moonlighting as a gunrunner has become gripping bedside reading for the who's who of Bay Area politics.
In it are snapshots of Yee's inglorious descent -- his "epic swan dive" as one San Mateo politician put it. If the charges are to be believed, Yee for years was living a secret double life.