$20,000 in donations to Mayor Ed Lee's mayoral campaign in 2011 came from the FBI's undercover agents working on the corruption probe that ultimately snared State Senator Leland Yee, Chinatown gang leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, and 27 others.
The leak comes from a defense attorney for one of those indicted as a result of the investigation. According to Matier and Ross, who broke the story, "three lawyers representing defendants in the case—including Chow's attorney Tony Serra—said the Lee connection was brought up by a fourth defense attorney, James Brosnahan." FBI sources and prosecutors have declined to comment on the report.
This is not the first time that sources close to the case have floated the names of other prominent Bay Area figures as subject of the FBI's investigation. In May, an anonymous source told the Chronicle that the FBI had tried to ensnare former 49ers' quarterback Joe Montana to participate in a real estate deal. Montana—similar to Lee—was not charged, and does not appear from the limited evidence available to have committed corrupt actions. Defense attorneys for those who were charged have sought to portray the FBI's investigation as a unfocused fishing expedition that manufactured, rather than uncovered, criminality.
These leaks appear to help bolster that contention, a point that was echoed by the Mayor's spokesperson, Tony Winnicker. He is quoted as saying, "We have no information or reason to believe Mayor Lee was ever a target of this probe which, at any rate, appears to have been a fairly wide-ranging Bay Area fishing expedition."
Although precise details of the FBI's transaction with Lee were not made clear, FBI agents laundered $5,000 in checks to the State Senator. Mayor Lee's campaign was tarred with two apparently unrelated money laundering donations—$11,500 from an airport shuttle operator and $4,500 from a property management company—both of which were uncovered and returned.