Former State Sen. Yee, Three Others Plead Guilty to Racketeering

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SAN FRANCISCO – Former State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), Brandon Jackson, Keith Jackson, and Marlon Sullivan all pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco on July 1 to charges that they engaged in racketeering activity, announced U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag and FBI Special Agent in Charge David J. Johnson.

By changing their pleas from “not guilty” to “guilty,” the four co-defendants now each have acknowledged they have participated in the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. Each defendant, all residents of San Francisco, has acknowledged guilt with respect to separate facts.

Leland Yee

Leland Yee

For his part, Yee, 66, acknowledged that he participated in two criminal enterprises, the Leland Yee for Mayor Campaign 2011 and the Leland Yee for Secretary of State campaign. In connection with these campaigns, Yee admitted he:

(1) Accepted $10,000 in exchange for using his influence as a state senator to assist in the process of obtaining a grant from the California Department of Public Health;

(2) Conspired to extort money from individuals by suggesting he would cast favorable votes for specific legislation only if the money were paid;

(3) Accepted a $11,000 bribe in exchange for arranging a meeting with another state senator to discuss specific legislation;

(4) Conspired with others to purchase weapons in the Philippines and import them illegally into the U.S.;

(5) Provided more than $6,000 in cash to a campaign aide knowing the aide would launder the money by arranging to convert the cash into checks made payable to Yee’s secretary of state campaign.

On Jan. 29, a federal grand jury indicted Yee under a second superseding indictment with conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a); honest services conspiracy, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349; scheme to defraud citizens of honest services and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346; conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 922(a)(1), and 922(l); and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(h).

According to his plea agreement, Yee pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge and the remaining charges will be dismissed.

“Mr. Yee must now live with the consequences of betraying the trust that was placed in him when he became a public servant,” said Haag. “It is particularly disappointing and troubling when our elected officials violate their obligation to fairly represent their constituents. This office will continue to devote the resources necessary to ensure that our elected officials govern within the law.”

“Sen. Yee’s admission of guilt today brings some measure of justice to the true victims of his crimes: the people of the state of California,” said Johnson. “When a public official uses his office for personal gain and as a platform for illegal activity, he not only betrays the people who elected him to office, but undermines the core principles of our system of government.”

Keith Jackson, 50, was Yee’s political consultant and also pleaded guilty to a single charge of racketeering with respect to the same criminal enterprises: the Leland Yee for Mayor Campaign 2011 and the Leland Yee for Secretary of State campaign. In his plea agreement, Jackson admitted he:

(1) Conspired with Yee to accept payments in exchange for providing official services from Yee in his capacity as a state senator;

(2) Conspired to extort money from individuals by suggesting he would cast favorable votes for specific legislation only if the money were paid;

(3) Received bribes on Yee’s behalf;

(4) Conspired with Yee to purchase weapons in the Philippines and import them illegally into the U.S.;

(5) Reimbursed an individual with $3,000 in cash in exchange for two checks made payable to the Leland Yee for Secretary of State campaign knowing that the transaction constituted money laundering and was in furtherance of a weapons trafficking deal.

Jackson was charged with 24 counts in the second superseding indictment (as compared to the nine charges against Yee). The charges included use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine.

According to Sullivan’s plea agreement, he engaged in a separate criminal enterprise, the Chee Kung Tong (CKT). The plea agreement describes CKT as a predominantly Chinese American association, based in Chinatown in San Francisco, formed primarily for civic purposes to benefit the communities of Chinese immigrants and Chinese Americans.

According to the plea agreement, CKT developed both positive legal community functions and criminal functions; “[s]ome members of the CKT were strictly involved the CKT’s legal functions and activities while other members were also involved in illegal functions and activities.”

Sullivan, 30, admitted he conspired with Keith Jackson and Brandon Jackson to purchase cocaine and to complete a murder-for-hire transaction. Sullivan further acknowledged being arrested just as he attempted to complete the cocaine transaction. With respect to the murder-for-hire transaction, Sullivan did not discover until after he agreed to perform the murder that both the person requesting the murder and the target were federal agents.

Sullivan told one of the agents he could “‘pull it off’ because nobody would suspect him of being capable of murder, based on the fact that he was a sports agent licensed to represent players of, among other associations, the NFL.

Sullivan agreed to accept $10,000 in exchange for completing the murder. In addition, he admitted participating with Keith Jackson and Brandon Jackson in a scheme to illegally sell multiple firearms. Here again, Sullivan was unaware he was selling the arms to undercover federal agents.

He was charged in the second superseding indictment with conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); three counts of dealing firearms without a license, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1); and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958.

According to Brandon Jackson’s plea agreement, he too participated in illegal activities through CKT. Jackson, 29, admitted that CKT was engaged in narcotics distribution, assault, robbery, extortion, collection of unlawful debt, murder for hire, money laundering, trafficking in stolen goods, illegal firearm possession, and obstruction of justice.

He also admitted he tried to arrange for the purchase of 10 kilograms of cocaine from a Colombian supplier. The supplier turned out to be a non-existent person created by a federal agent. Jackson was arrested in Hartford, Conn., after flying there to complete the transaction.

With respect to the murder-for-hire scheme, Jackson agreed to gather intelligence on the intended target, including the target’s “daily routine.” Further, he participated with Keith Jackson and Sullivan in the selling of multiple firearms.

Brandon Jackson was charged in the second superseding indictment with conspiracy to conduct the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d); conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846, 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A); six counts of dealing firearms without a license, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1); and use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder for hire, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1958.

Yee and Keith Jackson remain out of custody pending their sentencing hearings. Sullivan and Brandon Jackson are in custody pending their sentencing hearings. All defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco.

The maximum statutory penalty for participating in the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) is 20 years of imprisonment, a fine of $250,000, plus restitution. However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Frentzen, Susan Badger, and S. Waqar Hasib are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Rosario Calderon, Kurk Kosek, Ana Guerra, Marina Ponomarchuk, Victoria Etterer, and Lance Libatique.

The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the FBI; San Francisco Police Department Gang Task Force; Oakland Police Department; Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation; New York Police Department; and the Mercer County (N.J.) Sheriff’s Office.

Leland Yee’s Political Career

Elected to San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education in 1988 and 1992, served as board president.

Elected to San Francisco Board of Supervisors (District 4) in 1996 and 2000.

Elected to State Assembly (12th District) in 2002 and 2004, served as speaker pro tempore.

Elected to State Senate (8th District) in 2006 and 2010.

Ran for mayor of San Francisco in 2011, finished in fifth place.

Declared candidacy for California secretary of state in 2012; withdrew in 2014 following corruption charges. His name remained on the ballot and he finished in third place.

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