Former California state Senator Leland Yee was a staunch gun control advocate.
Then Yee was arrested for corruption and gun trafficking.
Now Yee’s malfeasance has led to the FBI uncovering more startling corruption in the Bay Area.
Yee rose through the political ranks of San Francisco with whispers of questionable ethics following him along the way. His squeaky-clean façade finally shattered in 2014.
Yee was caught on tape asking for campaign contributions from an undercover FBI agent posing as a crime boss. In exchange for the cash, Yee would introduce him to a man who could provide him with automatic weapons and missiles from a Muslim separatist group.
From a Washington Post article:
Yee also discussed buying weapons overseas and bringing them to the U.S. with two associates and an undercover agent. He accepted $6,800 and a list of arms for purchase in the Philippines.
The maneuvers were not only illegal, but also in stark contrast to what he had long purported to stand for.
Yee told CBS two years before he was arrested: “It is extremely important that individuals in the state of California do not own assault weapons. I mean that is just so crystal clear — there is no debate, no discussion.”
As a legislator, Yee supported strict gun control laws and was named to the Brady Campaign’s Gun Violence Prevention Honor Roll.
Yee narrowly escaped terrorism charges because bureaucratic maneuvering kept the separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, off the State Department’s terrorist watchlist.
An article from The Mercury News:
His [Yee’s] ties to the group, whose leader has said he personally met with Osama bin Laden, are spelled out in a 137-page affidavit. It accuses Yee and two associates of conspiring with an undercover FBI agent posing as a Mafia gangster to purchase up to $2.5 million in weapons from a source with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines…
On March 27 — the day after Yee’s arrest — the Philippines government signed a peace accord with the leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest separatist group.
The group…may have only been kept off the State Department list so as not to disturb those peace talks, said Joseph Felter, a senior research fellow with Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation…
“In the United States, ever since post-9/11, many folks have wanted to put (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) as a designated terrorist group,” said Felter, who has worked with the Philippines military on security issues.
At a March 5 meeting with the undercover agent, Yee explained how Mindanao, a southern island of the Philippines, was largely populated by Muslim rebel groups, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had many factions. The state senator told the agent Muslims in Mindanao had access to a lot of money and were financed by Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi before his death, according to the complaint.
A week later, the agent asked Yee about the proposed peace treaty and Yee said the Philippines government was secretly funding some of the groups in an effort to distract people from government corruption. Yee said factions within the terrorist group didn’t agree with the treaty and that those elements had no problem “kidnapping individuals, killing individuals and extorting them for ransom,” according to the complaint.
Yee reportedly told the agent he took an “agnostic” stance on the weapons deal:
“People want to get whatever they want to get. Do I care? No, I don’t care. People need certain things,” he is quoted as saying.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has been linked to 30 years of brutality, including the Maguindanao massacre in November 2009, when armed men kidnapped and killed 58 people, including a politician, his wife, two sisters, journalists, lawyers and aides.
The sting operation that bagged Yee continues to rope in nefarious characters in the Bay Area political landscape.
From an April 2017 San Francisco Gate report:
The FBI sting operation that netted a state legislator [Yee] and a prominent figure in San Francisco’s Chinatown has spawned bid-rigging charges against a former state Department of Veterans Affairs official, two Oakland construction company executives and the son of the Oakland City Council president.
The federal grand jury indictment, issued Thursday, charges eight defendants with crimes that include bribery, fraud and conspiracy.
Prosecutors said the case is a product of the same FBI investigation in 2012-14 that led to the convictions of state Sen. Leland Yee and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, leader of a Chinatown community organization.
In both cases, prosecutors said, the go-between was Keith Jackson, a onetime San Francisco school board president who was a fundraiser for Yee and an associate of Chow.
Both Yee and Jackson pleaded guilty to racketeering — Yee for accepting bribes and Jackson for arranging them — and were sentenced to five and nine years in prison, respectively.
Chow, convicted of operating his organization as a racketeering enterprise, was sentenced to life in prison.
One man charged Thursday, Eric Worthen, 45, of Pleasant Hill, was Yee’s legislative director for a year before Gov. Jerry Brown appointed him in 2011 as assistant deputy secretary for administration at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The other defendants include Lance Turner, 57, of Oakland, chief operating officer of Turner Group Construction; Len Turner, 56, of San Leandro, the company’s chief financial officer; Taj Reid, 46, of Oakland, son of City Council President Larry Reid; and four other Bay Area construction executives.
For decades, Yee had his tentacles in various sectors of city and state politics, so there’s no telling just how deep this rabbit hole goes.