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Everything You Need to Know About "Shrimp Boy," the Gangster Arrested Along With Leland Yee Today

Adam L Brinklow | March 26, 2014 | Story Politics

In addition to arresting San Francisco's State Senator Leland Yee this morning, authorities also took into custody Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a convicted criminal turned something of a local celebrity. But just who is this gangland figure?

Here's everything we could find about him online today:

Born in Hong Kong in 1959, Chow was involved in gang life from the age of 9 as a gofer for Hong Kong Triads. His grandmother coined the "Shrimp Boy" nickname on account of his small stature. Clocking in at 5'5 today, the name stuck.

Chow immigrated to San Francisco when he was 16 and fell into gang life here. "As a new immigrant, I don't feel the safety," Chow told SF Weekly in 2007. "That's why, first thing, I go back to where I come from: the gang." Chow became an enforcer for the Hop Sing Boys and made his first local headlines in 1977 as a survivor of the Golden Dragon Massacre, a shootout in a popular Chinatown bar that left 5 dead. He later credited sitting in the corner of the room for saving his life.

Chow spent most of the decades ahead in and out of prison, serving seven years for robbery in '78, then three more after a fight in a Chinatown club in '86. Fresh out at the dawn of the 90s, Chow became the partner and protege of gangster Peter Chong and the two plotted to create a joint organization to fill a power vacuum in San Francisco's underworld. Chow turned to pimping and the heroin trade. But by '95 Chow was looking at his longest prison term yet: 24 years for arms trafficking. Chow opted to testify against his former boss, also facing charges, and received a reduced sentence.

Free again in 2003, Chow proclaimed himself a changed man.

Saying he was no longer interested in criminal dealings, he styled himself a community leader and public figure. He rubbed shoulders with political figures like Fiona Ma and David Chiu at art galleries and community events, and his smiling face was often seen at Chinatown galas. He fostered an image as a mentor to local youth, lecturing them on the dangers of gang life.

Chow was appointed head of the "Chinese Freemasons" (properly the Hung Moon Ghee Kong Tong) and twice accepted awards from city supervisors on the Tong's behalf.

His Facebook page (which has a 1,068 Likes) teems with photos of a well-dressed Chow alongside the likes of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and LINES Ballet founder Alonso King—apparently all while wearing an electronic bracelet on his ankle as part of his parole. He recently finished his memoirs and was trying to shop them around to Hollywood producers.

Meanwhile, documentary programs on the History Channel and National Geographic recounted his past misdeeds. But Chow insisted that was all behind him.

This morning's arrest appears to be his first significant run-in with law enforcement in over a decade. The exact nature of his connection to Yee is still to be determined.

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