Leland Yee needed cash. CNN needed credibility. Somehow, both lost their way.
(Is LeLand Yee a Democrat? You won’t find out until the fourth paragraph)
CNN‘s Matt Smith and Jason Carroll hot on the scene: First, the ambitious California state senator had to fund his 2011 race for mayor of San Francisco. When he came in fifth, he was stuck with $70,000 in campaign debt that he had to retire before he could mount his next run, for secretary of state — a costly statewide venture.
And that’s how prosecutors say Yee ended up sitting across from an undercover federal agent in a coffee shop in early March, brokering what he was told was a $2 million arms deal that would include the purchase of shoulder-fired missiles from Islamic rebels in the Philippines.
“Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money,” Yee told the agent in a conversation recounted in a 137-page arrest affidavit. “Do I think we can get the goods? I think we can get the goods.”
The veteran Democrat, an advocate for gun control and campaign finance reform in Sacramento, is now one of about two dozen people charged in a sprawling racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco. His co-defendants include a former San Francisco school board president and a previously-convicted Chinatown mobster dubbed “Shrimp Boy.”
He’s accused of putting his public office up for sale, and promising to push donors’ agendas in Sacramento and in his district in exchange for contributions. The allegations have stunned his constituents in San Francisco and its suburbs and cast a shadow over his state Senate colleagues, who have suspended Yee and two other Democrats who have run afoul of the law in recent months. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Uncle Leland’: Political Ambition and Debt Put California Senator on a Collision Course with FBI in Five-Year Corruption StingPosted: April 4, 2014
The mobster, who claimed to hail from New Jersey, wanted millions of dollars worth of smuggled firearms: automatic weapons, “shoulder-fired” missiles. Yee, 65, a career politician whose square, earnest face was a fixture in Chinatown, and who was perennially seen stumping for stricter gun control laws in Sacramento, said he was confident he could help. For a fee, the Democrat indicated he could connect the mobster with a high-end arms dealer with contacts in Russia, the Ukraine, “Muslim countries.”
“Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money,” Yee said. But the transaction was not for the “faint of heart,” he warned: The last time Yee had dealt with an arms dealer, they were in the Philippines, and Yee was surrounded by bodyguards with machine guns.
[VIDEO] Gun-Trafficking Senator Update: Leland Yee Appears in Court, Bail Kept at $500,000, Plans to Plead Not GuiltyPosted: March 31, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO — Suspended State Sen. Leland Yee appeared briefly in federal court in San Francisco Monday and was told that his bail will remain at $500,000 while he awaits a trial on corruption and gun trafficking charges.
“Yee is also accused of a seventh charge of trafficking in firearms without a license, in connection with an alleged proposal to ship guns to a Muslim rebel group in the Philippines. The alleged plan was discussed with an undercover agent who was posing a Mafia member.”
Yee, 65, wearing a dark gray business suit and white shirt, said nothing during the appearance before U.S. Magistrate Nathaniel Cousins.
Cousins ordered him to return to court on April 8 for either an arraignment on a possible grand jury indictment or, if no indictment is issued, a preliminary hearing on a criminal complaint filed by federal prosecutors last week.
Outside of court, Yee’s attorney, Paul DeMeester, said he expects an indictment and said Yee will plead not guilty.