By Jim Miller and Christopher Cadelago
Published: Friday, Jul. 25, 2014 – 2:16 pm
Last Modified: Saturday, Jul. 26, 2014 – 12:00 am
Federal prosecutors have added a charge of racketeering to the corruption and gun-running case against state Sen. Leland Yee, filing an amended indictment this week that includes new allegations that the San Francisco Democrat traded official favors for campaign cash.
The indictment broadens the scope of the charges facing the more than two-dozen defendants in the case and significantly increases Yee’s potential punishment if he is convicted. Yee, who has pleaded not guilty, could face a maximum sentence of 165 years in prison and $2.25 million in penalties based on the charges in the latest filing. Racketeering charges, developed 45 years ago to combat the mafia, gives prosecutors more latitude on presenting evidence.
“The prosecution is always very careful not to bring that charge unless they got the goods,” said attorney McGregor W. Scott, a former U.S. attorney in Sacramento. “It really brings the connotation that it involves serious wrongdoing.”
Yee is among 29 people ensnared in a sweeping undercover federal investigation into an organized crime ring allegedly overseen by Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a longtime associate of Yee, and Yee’s political consultant, Keith Jackson, according to a federal criminal complaint. The original indictment following Yee’s March 26 arrest alleged that he took campaign money from undercover FBI agents and offered to arrange an international arms deal. Yee was raising money to retire a debt from his run for San Francisco mayor and to wage a 2014 campaign for secretary of state.
Among the new allegations in this week’s filing, authorities contend Yee and Jackson tried to get campaign contributions from the owner of an unnamed National Football League team in exchange for supporting legislation favored by league owners and opposed by some players.
Yee approached one of the undercover FBI agents who was posing as a medical marijuana entrepreneur after he heard that the agent knew an NFL owner, according to the indictment. Yee told the agent about Assembly Bill 1309, which was designed to limit professional athletes from out-of-state teams from filing workers’ compensation claims in California.
Supporters of the measure by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, complained that athletes were exploiting the state’s workers’ compensation system by filing claims for benefits despite spending all or most of their careers playing outside of California. After undergoing revisions, the measure extended eligibility to athletes who played either at least two years or 20 percent of their careers for in-state teams.
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