KTVU Exclusive: Raymond Chow tells his side of the story

  Notorious former San Francisco Chinatown gang leader Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow granted our Amber Lee an exclusive jailhouse interview.

   On Friday, Lee met with Chow at the Hall of Justice where he's being held in the San Francisco County jail.

   It's the first time Chow has spoken publicly since his arrest almost two years ago.

   On January 8th, a federal jury  convicted him  of 162 counts including racketeering and murder. 

   Chow faces a likely life sentence.

   The one on one interview was conducted in a small 5X7 room with only a table between Lee and Chow.

    Chow's smile is as bright as the orange jail issued clothes he wears.

    His  manner approachable  rather than intimidating ---in contrast to the notoriety that has followed him as a long time organized crime leader in Chinatown.

"Any question you have, just openly ask me," said Chow to the reporter. .

  Chow is relatively small in stature...five feet five...but a larger than life presence.

  When Lee asked Chow why he decided to speak with her, he replied, " I want people to see me. People  look at  me and think I'm a bad person.  Hey,  you know what...you just got to get to know me. I'm truthful." 

   As for his conviction, "The jury found me quilty.  I can not blame it on the jury because my past is very scary.       They judge me before I get a chance to tell them who i am," said Chow.

  He was the subject of a 2008 History Channel documentary about San Francisco Chinatown gangs.

   In September  1977, Chow...then 17 ..survived a shootout known as the Golden Dragon massacre in a restaurant with rival gang members.

   Five people were killed.

   The self- described son of the underworld says his life of crime  started when he was eight years old in Hong Kong where he was born.

   He says it  continued when he immigrated to San Francisco when he was 16 years old.

"I  sold drugs.  I robbed people. From little hustler, I  become the bigger hustler," said Chow. 

   Rumor has it that he used to chase people with a machine gun in Chinatown.  When asked if that was true, he said,

"Yeah ...people shot at me.  I  shot at people...that's pretty normal to me." 

   He tells KTVU he's not surprised by the jury's verdict,

"It's very scary for the jury to listen to my past and I'm very honest ...telling everything exactly the way it is. No bull----, no lie. Just tell them the way i am."

   Chow  says he changed his life after he was released from prison in 2003 after serving time for drugs, prostitution and money laundering.

  He  became the leader ...the  so called "dragon head" of Ghee Kung Tong...a Chinese fraternal association in Chinatown in 2006. 

  The 56 year old also volunteered  with a group that helps at risk kids.

  He says he  receives  financial support from his family and his girlfriend.

  Then on March 26, 2014, Chow was arrested and so was then State Senator Leland Yee.

  The two men  were  among the dozens of people targetted by federal investigators in a five-year probe.

  It linked Yee and Chow   in a corruption scheme that involved illegal gunrunning and other crimes.

  "Wow. I'm the mobster with a lot of money.  I  got the senator in my pocket...nothing like that.

  That's bull---- .  The prosecution side  is lying about this."

  When asked why federal prosecutors targetted him since he already served his time for previous crimes,

  Chow replies, "I'm like a trophy to them... scapegoat.  You can find a worse scapegoat than me.  My past get the whole Chinatown shake.  Everytime there's big trouble, everybody point the finger at me."

  Chow says he does know former State Senator Leland Yee...that he did volunteer work on Yee's mayoral campaign but nothing illegal.

"Not about money.  Holding the sign for him on the street...Van Ness Street--holding the sign asking people to vote for Leland."   

  Chow says during the three days he took the stand during his trial, he wasn't given a chance to talk about Yee.  

  "The court just rushed me out.  You say enough. You got to move.  I  want to sit down and tell the people my story.  I  wasn't dong all that stuff," said Chow.   

  The most serious charge against Chow was murder.

  In court this month, he was convicted of being involved in the 2006 killing of another chinatown leader....Allen Leung.

"I'm innocent.  I did not kill nobody. I did not tell nobody ..talk about anybody to kill anybody," says Chow.   

  He says he has a clean conscience and that's why he plans to appeal.

"I  feel good about myself.  I  feel good to be a changed man.  I  know I  can do a lot more.  My life is not going to end up like this," said Chow.

    He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23.

   He faces life in prison.

   Chow tells KTVU he's confident he will win on appeal...saying "the truth will set me free."

   Chow says he had just finished writing a book on his life when he was arrested and he had received an offer to make a movie about his life.

   He hopes to do that if and when he's a free man.