By Josh Richman, Robert Salonga and Mark Gomez
State Senator Leland Yee has been indicted for public corruption as part of a major FBI operation Tuesday morning spanning the Bay Area, according to law-enforcement sources.
Yee highlights a string of multiple arrests that also includes notorious Chinatown gangster Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, connected to a variety of charges including racketeering and drug crimes, sources said.
FBI agents and local police are serving arrest and search warrants throughout the Bay Area, with agents seen in locations in San Francisco and San Mateo, as well as Yee's Capitol office in Sacramento. One of the searches was at the San Francisco Chinatown office of the Gee King Tong Free Masons and is linked to Chow's arrest.
Targets of the raid are expected to appear in federal court in San Francisco this afternoon.
Yee's indictment might put his candidacy for Secretary of State in ruins, and threaten Democrats' ability to restore the state Senate supermajority that already has been broken by two other lawmakers' paid leaves of absence to deal with criminal charges.
Yee represents San Francisco and a portion of San Mateo County.
Before his election to the state Senate in 2006, Yee was an Assemblyman from 2002 to 2006; a San Francisco supervisor from 1997 to 2002; and had been a member and president of the San Francisco Unified School District board. While in the Assembly, he became the first Asian-American to be named Speaker pro Tempore, essentially making him the chamber's second-most-powerful Democrat.
Besides Yee, Other candidates for Secretary of State this year include state Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys; Democrat Derek Cressman; Republican Pete Peterson; and nonpartisan Dan Schnur. Upon pulling his candidacy papers in February, Yee issued a news release saying it was time for a Secretary of State "who will expand access to the ballot box, make our government more transparent, and strengthen California's democracy." "I am committed to empowering Californians so that they can guarantee fair elections, expose special interests and prevent corruption, because it's your California," Yee said at the time.
Yee campaign spokesman Joaquin Ross declined comment Wednesday morning, saying he would have to call back.
Yee is the first Chinese-American ever elected to the California State Senate.
He emigrated to San Francisco from China at age 3; his father was a veteran who served in the U.S. Army and the Merchant Marine. Yee earned a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley; a master's degree from San Francisco State University; and a doctorate in child psychology at the University of Hawaii. He and his wife, Maxine, have four children.
Yee is the state's third Democratic legislator recently tied to corruption allegations. In February, State Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, surrendered to authorities after being indicted on bribery charges. In January, Assemblyman Roderick Wright, D-Inglewood, was convicted of voter fraud and perjury stemming from a 2010 indictment.
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