APRIL 03, 2014
There appears to be a serious epidemic of corrupt legislators in the nation’s most populous state, with the latest elected thug du jour getting nabbed for operating a creative bribery and mob-style firearm trafficking scheme.
Like an entertaining Hollywood movie the story is littered with drama, murder-for-hire, drugs, betrayal and money laundering only this is real-life California politics. The star of this script, Democrat state Senator Leland Yee, is a career politician well known as an outspoken supporter of gun control. Yet, he has been criminally indicted with illegally trafficking firearms along with a number of other corruption charges outlined by federal prosecutors in this whopping 137-page criminal complaint.
Yee, who represents northern California’s San Mateo and San Francisco counties in the state Senate, has been charged with seven federal felonies. Undercover agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) busted him promising political favors in exchange for money, influence peddling with fellow lawmakers and running an illicit, multimillion-dollar weapons deal via the Philippines for an operative claiming to be a New Jersey mobster. The official charges against Lee, a former public school board member and county supervisor in San Francisco, are conspiracy to traffic firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms and six counts of defrauding citizens of honest services.
On his official web site Lee, who has a doctorate in child psychology, brags about being named “Legislator of the Year” by dozens of organizations and of his work on behalf of children, education, civil rights and open government. A local paper wrote an amusing piece that lists seven ironic post-arrest Leland Yee press releases. Among them is a release that reads: “Senator Yee Named Clean Money Champion.” Another calls for a state university official to respond to corruption charges and one blasts gun rights and expresses outrage about the kind of assault weapons he’s charged with trafficking. Less than a week before his arrest, Lee posted a press release announcing that the Society of Professional Journalists honored him with the Sunshine Award for his efforts to bring greater government transparency.
Lee is simply the latest in a string of California politicians to make headlines for their corrupt behavior. Earlier this year his state senate colleague, Roderick Wright, got convicted of eight felony counts of voter fraud and perjury, including fraudulently voting in elections in 2008 and 2009. The Democrat lawmaker represents the largely poor, minority communities in Los Angeles County that include Inglewood, Lawndale, Compton, Gardena and West Carson yet he’s keeping his $90,525 public salary during an extended “leave of absence” to work on appealing his conviction.
Another California state senator, Democrat Ronald Calderon, could also be on his way to the slammer and is receiving full pay while he fights federal corruption charges. The feds say Calderon accepted nearly $100,000 in cash bribes as well as plane trips, gourmet dinners and trips to golf resorts in exchange for supporting legislation that would benefit those paying the bribes. The lawmaker thought the bribes were coming from a hospital owner and independent film studio but instead it was the FBI, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A federal grand jury has indicted Calderon with mail fraud, wire fraud, honest services fraud, bribery, conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering and aiding in the filing of false tax returns.
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