SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California state senator was arrested Wednesday during a series of raids by the FBI in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities said.
FBI spokesman Peter Lee confirmed the arrest of State Sen. Leland Yee, but declined to discuss the charges, citing an ongoing investigation.
The agency was executing numerous arrests and search warrants in the Bay Area, FBI Special Agent Michael Gimbel said outside the offices of Ghee Kung Tong, a fraternal organization in San Francisco's Chinatown that was among the sites searched.
Lee said a second man, Raymond Chow, was also arrested. Chow, who was known as "Shrimp Boy," was reportedly the head of Ghee Kung Tong and had returned to Chinatown after serving time in prison on gun charges.
The FBI also searched Yee's office, Mark Hedlund, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, confirmed. Hedlund said he had no information about Yee's arrest.
"We're hoping for more as we go through the day," he said.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said he had no comment and did not know anything about the investigation.
Officers from the California Highway Patrol and Senate sergeant-at-arms details were standing guard outside Yee's office, where a morning newspaper remained untouched.
Yee, a Democrat, represents western San Francisco and much of San Mateo County. A spokesman for the senator, Dan Lieberman, said he had no comment, but the senator's office would release a statement in the afternoon.
Yee, 65, is best known publicly for his efforts to strengthen open records, government transparency and whistleblower protection laws, including legislation to close a loophole in state public records laws after the CSU Stanislaus Foundation refused to release its $75,000 speaking contract with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2010.
For his efforts to uphold the California Public Records Act, Yee was honored last week by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, which awarded him its public official citation for his efforts last year to maintain the requirements of the California Public Records Act.
Yee has at times clashed with fellow Democrats for casting votes of conscience, refusing to support the Democratic budget proposal in 2011 because of its deep cuts to education, social services and education. He also opposed legislation by a fellow Democrat, Assemblyman Paul Fong of Cupertino, that banned the sale of shark fins used for Chinese shark fin soup, saying that it unfairly targeted the Chinese-American community.
Yee is among three Democrats running this year for secretary of state, the office that oversees elections and campaign finance reporting. He lost a bid for mayor of San Francisco in 2011.
A man was charged last year for threatening Yee over legislation that he proposed to limit rapid reloading of assault weapons.
Yee is scheduled to be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. in federal court in San Francisco.
His arrest came as a shock to Chinese-Americans who see the senator as a pioneering leader in the community and a mainstay of San Francisco politics, said David Lee, director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee.
"People are waiting to see what happens, and they are hoping for the best, that the charges turn out not to be true," said Lee, whose organization just held a get-out-the-vote event with Yee and other Chinese-American elected officials last week.
Chow acknowledged in an unpublished autobiography that he ran prostitution rings in the 1980s, smuggled drugs and extorted thousands from business owners as a Chinatown gang member, KGO-TV reported two years ago. But he told the station he had changed and was working with at-risk children in San Francisco.