Former California Sen. Leland Yee, who pleaded guilty last summer to racketeering, should spend eight years in prison, federal prosecutors stated Wednesday, laying out 50 pages of the sordid details of bribery, attempted arms deals and a man who “sold his vote to the highest bidder.”
The state senator who once tried to criminalize the sale of violent video games to children, was secretly recorded in 2014 setting up a deal between a Russian Arms dealer and an undercover agent to buy automatic weapons and shoulder fired missiles in shipping container-sized quantities.
“As to the weapons, Yee said he was ‘agnostic,’” according to a government sentencing memorandum sent to U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer. “People want to get whatever they want to get,” Yee was recorded saying. “Do I care? No, I don’t care.”
He was attempting to set up a deal for millions of dollars-worth of automatic weapons to be shipped from the Philippines to New Jersey, in exchange for campaign contributions in his run for Secretary of State, according to prosecutors.
During a dinner meeting at the Waterbar restaurant in San Francisco in March 2014, the agent said he could give Yee $6,800 cash and a list of weapons he wanted.
The government argued, when Yee is sentenced Feb. 24 in San Francisco, he should not get a slap on the wrist but eight years in prison and pay a $25,000 fine.
In 2014, Yee, 67, was indicted without the alleged weapons deal taking place. He dropped out of the Secretary of State race and was suspended from the Senate – with pay.
“The offenses committed by Yee were no one-time straying by a public official from lawful and ethical conduct,” wrote Acting U.S. Attorney Brian Stretch. “They were a string of numerous serious illegal acts over a period of three years that ended only when Yee and (co-defendant Keith) Jackson were arrested,” he said.
Among the bribery and extortion schemes alleged by the government, Yee wanted a $10,000 donation to clear up his remaining debt from his failed San Francisco mayoral race and in exchange would make calls to the Dept. of Public Health on behalf of a company trying to get state contracts.
FBI investigators stumbled on another scheme while monitoring wiretaps of Yee. In this instance, he planned to extort money from an individual affiliated with the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) by suggesting he would vote against a pending bill to extend the life of the CSAC, unless he got campaign money.
In 2013, the government alleged Yee met and worked with an undercover agent pretending to be an Arizona businessman who wanted to expand his medical marijuana business to California and was willing to pay Yee for his support for legislation that would facilitate the business.
Yee also admitted he agreed to provide a certificate on California State Senate letterhead honoring the Chee Kung Tong, run by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a gang leader indicted with Yee. Chow was convicted this year of 162 counts, including a murder conspiracy.
In 2012, Yee and Jackson were recorded talking about someone willing to help out Chow but Yee warned that Chow revels in his previous life as a gangster and should lay low.
In another conversation about Chow, the government reports Jackson as saying, “I don’t know who’s got Raymond by the balls. It seems the FBI has him by the balls.”
Yee responded, “Yeah, you know why. And I told him. You know, he wants to remind everybody that he’s a hero. Well, f…, you know, shit, you killed some people, man.”
Jackson: “He never killed anybody. [laughing]”
Yee: “Yeah, and I never did anything wrong in my life. Shit. Goddamn,” the recording concludes.
Case: U.S. v. Yee, No. 14-cr-196