Former Chinatown gangster, "Shrimp Boy," says he's a new man

May 7, 2012 11:54:55 PM PDT
In the late 1970s and 1980s, San Francisco's Chinatown was engulfed in a bloody gangland war. Out of it, emerged a charismatic and formidable leader named Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow. He went to jail for his crimes. But today he's out of prison, and he says he's a new man with a new life.

Please note: Many of the quotes throughout this story are grammatically incorrect. In the interest of printing exactly what was said, we have posted the conversations verbatim.

These days, he's been hanging out with Hollywood celebrities and big time sports figures. He's also doing a lot of community work. But the police still think he's up to no good. So I sat down with Chow and confronted him with information given to me by police sources.

"One thing, I have making really big mistake when I was your age, I wasn't going to school," he said. "I don't want to go to school... and now I regret about that."

When he was just 9 years old, Chow says he stabbed a man. Known as "Shrimp Boy" on the streets, he eventually became the enforcer of Chinatown's most notorious gang and spent a total of 22 years in prison. But today, Chow says he's a new man.

"I want to do something for the kids," he said. "I want to do something for the community. I want to do something for myself."

These days Chow works with at-risk children in San Francisco, and he recently finished his unpublished autobiography, "Son of the Underworld." He's talking to publishers, producers, directors, and socializing with celebrities like 49er Vernon Davis and Randy Jackson of the Jackson Five.

"Randy, he encouraged me a lot," said Chow.

According to Chow's book, he admits to running prostitution rings in the 80s, smuggling drugs, extorting thousands from business owners and battling rival gangs during Chinatown's most violent years. Chow went to jail for gun trafficking. But not everyone's convinced he's changed, including former San Francisco Police Sgt. Nelson Lum who arrested chow back in the 80s.

"Once you get involved in the gangs, it is very difficult to extract yourself from that system," said Nelsom Lum, formerly with the San Francisco Police Department.

"I just don't want to sit at home and be useless," said Chow. "I know I can do something in my life."

But according to a Northern California gang unit member, Chow is being followed closely. He currently leads the Chee Kung Tong, or the Chinese Free Masons. Chow became dragon head after former leader and high-profile businessman, Allen Leung, was murdered in 2006. Chow attended the funeral and says he had nothing to do with it. The murder is still unsolved.

Wang: The police still believe you're involved with a lot of criminal activity.

Chow: What do you think?

Wang: I don't know.

Chow: I still wear a monitor.

Wang: How many years now?

Chow: Oh, that's a new model. The old model is gone. I got a new model. Hey, you know what? Raymond doesn't have anything to hide.

"Sometimes you have to look a little deeper," said Lum. "How is he making a living? Why is he driving around in a Mercedes?"

"How I make a living? My family supports me, my relatives support me," said Chow.

Police sources also say Chow is still associating with known gang members.

Wang: If you're trying to be a mentor, why are you still hanging out with these guys who are allegedly still involved with crime?

Chow: I don't hanging out with them.

Chow says he keeps his distance, but he can't just ignore the people who are intertwined in Chinatown's insular community.

"I see every one of them. The people who [are] still involved in that business, whatever they claim they are. It's not my business no more," said Chow. "They want to buy me a drink? Fine. Cool. I drink it. They want to sit down have a breakfast with me? Hey, thanks. OK. No problem."

Chow has many believers, including four-time Super Bowl champion Eric Wright, who does community work with him and admits he had his concerns.

"I immediately called up a couple of my guys in SFPD and they immediately told me, 'Eric, stay away from Raymond,'" said Wright, who now believes Chow is sincere in his desire to turn kids around. "Everybody can't reach those kids. And when Raymond talks to those kids, you see a whole different light goes on."

And Chow says it shines back on him.

"I want inside my heart continue [to] grow. I want to feel, laugh with you, I want to cry for you," said Chow. "I want that kind of passion in life, you know? I feel really colorful. Pretty cool."

As for the Mercedes, Chow says his sister-in-law gave it to him after he got out of jail. He says he gave it back to her and now he drives a 1991 Honda Accord given to him by a fellow Tong member.

The San Francisco police and the FBI say they currently have no open cases on him and Chow says they never will.


Load Comments