By his own account, Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, one of the central figures in a massive criminal probe that ensnared California State Senator Leland Yee last month, once ruled over the criminal underworld in San Francisco’s Chinatown. However, after being released from federal prison in 2006, Chow claimed to have turned over a new leaf. He gave speeches to schools and community groups and even created a Facebook page. He described himself as a “reformed soldier” and posted a trio of honours from politicians featuring his name, including what Chow labelled a “letter of congratulations” from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
In the wake of Chow’s arrest on money laundering charges and allegations from the FBI that he “holds a ‘489’ position in the Triad, which is an internationally-based Chinese organised crime group,” the official recognitions he has received have raised eyebrows, and a spokesperson for Feinstein explained to Business Insider how Chow ended up with the letter.
“Senator Feinstein did not award Mr. Chow. She often writes congratulatory messages on behalf of California organisations. In this case, each year she sends a letter to Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services regarding their ‘In the Trenches’ honorees. Those individuals were selected by Bayview, not Senator Feinstein. The letter was addressed to the organisation, not any individual,” the spokesperson said.
Chow was named as a “change agent” at the “In The Trenches” award ceremony held July 21, 2012. The awards are presented by Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services and are given to people “who have changed their lives for the better … change agents, who have made positive impacts in people’s lives … [and] community leaders.” The letter from Feinstein was dated July 21, 2012 and was addressed to the director of the Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center, Suzy Tyner. It featured Chow’s name along with all the other “In The Trenches” honorees.
The other two political plaudits posted on Chow’s Facebook page also appear to be related to his “change agent” award. Chow received a “certificate of recognition” from state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano dated June 29, 2012 and a “certificate of honour” from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee on the day of the award ceremony. The text on Chow’s certificate from Lee also referenced the award.
“I am pleased to recognise and honour Raymond Chow for his tenacity and willingness to give back to the community and working ‘in the trenches’ as a Change Agent,” Lee wrote.
Lee’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider about the letter on Tuesday. Ammiano gave a statement to the Sacramento Bee about the certificate he gave to Chow late last month and said it was requested by Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services.
“One of the ceremonial aspects of being in the Assembly is providing recognition to people in the district at the request of respected community organisations,” said Ammiano. “It appears that my office provided such a recognition to Raymond Chow as a ‘change agent’ at the request of the Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services organisation. The group acknowledged Chow’s efforts at reform and helping others. That is all there is to it.”
Following his arrest, Bayview Hunters Point Multipurpose Senior Services seems eager to distance themselves from Chow. The group’s executive director, Cathy Davis, criticised Chow in an interview with the Los Angeles Times published Thursday.
“He really made a bad name for a lot of people we try to honour,” Davis said.
According to an affidavit given by FBI special agent Emmanuel Pascua and filed in federal court March 23, one of the “official acts” Yee allegedly performed in exchange for bribes was issuing an official state senate proclamation honouring the Chee Kung Tong, a fraternal organisation based in San Francisco’s Chinatown of which Yee is “the Dragonhead,” or leader. The affidavit also said the undercover FBI investigators learned Chow was “in charge of a criminal element” of the Chee Kung Tong.
Though Pascua said FBI investigators were led to Yee by a Chee Kung Tong associate whom Chow introduced to undercover agents, the state senator and the gangster do not seem to have been on good terms. In 2011, Pascua said Chow ate dinner with an undercover agent where he said “he helped Senator Yee enough already,” and “explained that Senator Yee made a big mistake” by not “supporting” him “on one occasion.”
Chow has not responded to requests for comment from Business Insider. However, in an update posted on his Facebook page on March 29, three days after his arrest, Chow suggested the allegations against him have been exaggerated.
“Don’t believe everything you read or hear. Make your decision after you meet me and get to know me,” he wrote. “I got to laugh today and I hope this photo does the same for you.”
View the letter from Feinstein and the certificates from Lee and Ammiano below.
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