Prosecutor cleared of campaign laundering allegations


OAKLAND, Calif. — A veteran Alameda County prosecutor has returned to work after an investigation found that she didn’t commit any ethical violations when she unsuccessfully ran for San Francisco District Attorney in 2011, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said Oct. 2.

Sharmin Bock, who’s been an Alameda County prosecutor since 1989 and is known for her work against human trafficking, was placed on paid administrative leave in early August after an attorney for reputed San Francisco Chinatown gang leader Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow alleged in court papers that she laundered campaign donations.

Chow, 55, who is facing racketeering and organized crime charges in federal court in San Francisco, filed a motion on Aug. 4 to dismiss those charges on the grounds that he was the target of what his lawyers allege is a “politically tainted prosecution.”

But that motion has been denied by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer.

Chow was one of 29 people charged in an indictment last year and jury selection for his trial is scheduled to begin in Breyer’s courtroom on Oct. 19. Nine defendants have pleaded guilty to various charges in the case and one has died.

Among those who’ve entered pleas are former state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, and political consultant Keith Jackson, who pleaded guilty on July 1 to one count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy to receive campaign contributions in exchange for political favors by Yee.

The contributions were to help pay off Yee’s debt for his unsuccessful run against Ed Lee for mayor of San Francisco in 2011 and his campaign for secretary of state, which he dropped out of after being arrested last year.

Chow’s motion claims the FBI and prosecutors targeted him because of his past criminal activity and ties while failing to go after other public figures, including Lee and Bock, who lives in San Francisco.

Documents filed by Chow’s attorney, Curtis Briggs, cite three recorded conversations in wiretapped phone calls between Yee and Bock that were disclosed during the discovery process in Chow’s case.

An FBI investigator wrote in a report that he believed one of the conversations “related to Yee swapping donation checks with Bock as part of his larger scheme to circumvent state and local campaign finance laws.”

But the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said it “conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation to determine whether any ethical violations were breached when she ran for San Francisco District Attorney” and concluded that “no ethical rules were violated.”

In a statement, officials with the district attorney’s office said, “Agreeing to ask for contributions from respective donor bases was in compliance with the local campaign finance laws. There was no violation of any federal, state or local law.”

Bock said in a statement, “I am honored to be back at work and serving the people of Alameda County. It is unfortunate that the false and reckless accusations of a criminal defense attorney (Briggs) caused this situation, but this case demonstrates the justice system does work.”

Bock said her office’s investigation “cleared me of any illegal or unethical behavior.”

Bock’s spokesman, Sam Singer, said she was in compliance with campaign finance laws when she and Yee solicited contributions from their respective contributors to retire campaign debt after they both lost their races.

Singer said Bock was also “completely unaware that Yee was involved in criminal activity.”

Bock helped create the Human Exploitation and Traffic Unit in Alameda County and in 2009 she received the Fay Stender Award from the California Women Lawyers, which is given to a woman attorney who has demonstrated her commitment to under-represented or disadvantaged people.

In 2010, former state Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, named Bock his district’s woman of the year for helping him pass legislation that increased the penalties for human traffickers and created a funding stream for programs helping child victims.

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