Suspended California state senator Leland Yee pleaded not guilty Thursday to racketeering while campaigning to be San Francisco mayor and California secretary of state.
Yee entered his plea in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
He was arrested in late March in an FBI sting targeting him, alleged Chinatown gang leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, and 27 others.
The indictment said Yee’s racketeering was the “solicitation of campaign contributions … in exchange for official action,” the SFGate reported.
Federal prosecutors said a five-year undercover probe showed that Chow ran a criminal organization that trafficked in drugs, weapons and stolen goods and laundered more than $2 million.
The FBI said its investigation of Chow led them to one of his associates, Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board member president who also worked as a fundraiser for Yee during the senator’s 2011 campaign for mayor and unsuccessful run for secretary of state this year.
Yee is not accused of having any personal contact with Chow.
The indictment accused Yee of soliciting or accepting $62,000 in bribes and agreeing to set up a meeting for an agent posing as a medical marijuana supplier and helping someone (another undercover agent) put together a gun-trafficking deal.
He’s also accused of taking bribes in exchange for voting for bills that favored contributors. One bill prevented pro football players on non-California teams from filing workers’ compensation claims for their injuries.
Yee is currently out on baill.
He, Chow and Jackson could each face 20 years in prison if convicted.
Julie DiMauro is the executive editor of the FCPA Blog and can be reached here.