Former gangster tapped to run Night Market

June 10, 2009 7:46:01 PM PDT
In San Francisco a story of second chances -- and second thoughts -- is emerging. A man who went to prison for his gang-related crimes has been given a job overseeing a city-funded program, but now some people have serious reservations about the decision.

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A former Chinatown gang leader now heads a community program that is funded by the city. But Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials are trying to figure out how to rescind the money.

Raymond Chow, also known as "Shrimp Boy," spent Wednesday meeting with the staff of the Chinatown Night Market. As a magnanimous gesture, the new general manager is accepting just $1 in pay.

"I can promise you I can do my best, the best for the community," Chow said.

Chow was once a notorious gangster in Chinatown. He went to prison on a racketeering conviction, but was released six years ago after he testified against his gang boss.

Chow now heads Chi Kung Tong, the Chinese Freemasons -- the job businessman Allen Leung held before he was killed two years ago. His murder is still unsolved.

Last week, the Chinatown Neighborhood Association chose Chow to run the Night Market and sources say that worries the mayor because his office gives the program a $35,000 grant.

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu represents Chinatown. He wants the funding to stop.

"Given the difficult and challenging history of the Night Market, given the current budget crisis that we're in and given the new players that are allegedly involved, I have significant questions of what is being proposed," Chiu said.

Former co-chair of the group Benny Yee helped select Chow.

"You have to give a chance to a person who has made mistakes; you can't continue saying he's a bad guy," Yee said.

Yee says other candidates who expressed interest pulled out. Chow says rumors that he intimidated them are untrue.

"I've been monitored by law enforcement 24-7 and if I do anything like that, definitely it'll be out there," Chow said.

So, Chow says, City Hall has no reason to worry.

Vic Lee: "So you can look the mayor in the eye and say, 'look Mayor Gavin Newsom, I'm a reformed man?'"

Chow: "Yes, I can look not just the mayor, but anybody!"

The mayor's office did not return ABC7's calls but a source close to the mayor says he wants to rescind the money. They are also worried about a power grab. Chow put six members from his group, the Chi Gong Tong, on the Night Market's board, saying, "I encourage all my members to participate in civic activities."

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