San Francisco mayor on defensive against corruption allegations

Lilian Kim Image
ByLilian Kim KGO logo
Tuesday, August 4, 2015
San Francisco mayor, city leaders on defensive
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and a handful of city officials are being accused of participating in "pay to play" politics.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The reputed gangster at the center of San Francisco's ongoing bribery and corruption case is pointing the finger at scores of top city leaders, including Mayor Ed Lee. Attorneys for Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow filed a motion Tuesday that claims the FBI has evidence of those officials accepting illegal money, but federal prosecutors refuse to go after them.

Chow's attorney Curtis Briggs says there is audio evidence of pay to play politics by city officials and if prosecutors won't go after the elected officials, they should let Chow go.

Chow, along with seven others, will go on trial this fall on charges of racketeering, money laundering, and trafficking drugs and weapons. The charges came after a lengthy federal investigation. Now Chow's attorneys say it was selective prosecution and that FBI documents show San Francisco's mayor should also have been indicted. They say Lee walked away unscathed, despite having taken over $20,000 in bribes.

"According to the FBI, he sat down with federal agents undercover, he took money from them, his staff took money from them, he was supposedly knowledgeable about what the money was for and he attempted to pay up on the bribe," Briggs said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Lee fired back, saying the accusations are old and untrue.

"Everybody makes whatever allegations they want to make for the sensationalism," he said. "These things have been thoroughly vetted and as far as I'm concerned, they're warrantless."

VIDEO: 'Shrimp Boy' accuses San Francisco mayor in bid to dismiss case

But Chow's attorneys say that according to the FBI documents, Lee and at least half a dozen city officials were involved, with one allegedly telling the FBI that former Mayor Willie Brown told them, "You pay to play here. We got it. We know this. We are the best at this game. Better than New York. We do it a little more sophisticated than New Yorkers and we do it without the mafia."

Chow's lawyer says Supervisor London Breed was named in the FBI documents. She calls allegations against her baseless and says "I'm not angry, it's just very sad."

"He's trying to get off trial, Mr. Raymond Chow, and he's doing everything he can, so I have to take it with a grain of salt that he's going to try to do what he can to be sensationalizing," Lee said.

The court filing also accuses the Rev. Amos Brown, and supervisors Malia Cohen and London Breed of pay to play as well. Then-supervisor, now Assm. David Chiu is also mentioned in the filing, but not for corruption. He is said to have helped the FBI in their investigation by wearing a body wire while attempting to provoke Chow into threatening him.

Chiu spoke to ABC7 News and said the FBI asked him to take part in their investigation after Chow made repeated threats to Chiu. Now Chow's attorneys are hoping Tuesday's court filing will lead to a dismissal, but for now, his trial is scheduled for the fall.

ABC7 News reached out to former Mayor Willie Brown, but have not heard back. The U.S. Attorney's Office has not commented.