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‘You cannot have police officers who take bribes’: Ex-Oakland cop gets 30 days in federal prison in case tied to organized crime

‘You cannot have police officers who take bribes’:
Ex-Oakland cop gets 30 days in federal prison in case tied to
organized crime 1

SAN FRANCISCO — In the latest case of a corrupt Bay Area official with ties to the infamous Ghee Kung Tong criminal organization, a longtime East Bay cop was given 30 days in federal prison for accepting bribes and protecting a known criminal, even after suspecting the man’s involvement in the murder of a married couple.

“I have disgraced everything that I stood for in my career. I’m deeply ashamed,” Harry Hu said in a video chat sentencing hearing Wednesday morning. He added, “I have learned a very hard lesson and I know I will pay for it for the rest of my life.”

Hu, a longtime Oakland officer and Alameda County District Attorney inspector, admitted to accepting tens of thousands in gifts from Wing Wo Ma, an Oakland man known as a small time swindler who in 2013 murdered Cindy Bao Feng Chen and her husband, Jim Tat Kong, who was known as the main rival for a notorious San Francisco gangster.

The murder was over a bogus investment; Kong had paid Ma to build a pot farm in Northern California that didn’t exist, and was demanding to see Ma’s progress. Feeling the pressure, Ma lured Kong and Chen to a remote area near Fort Bragg and shot them both dead inside a vehicle. When Hu, 64, figured out what had happened, he kept authorities out of the loop to protect himself, prosecutors said.

As part of an open-ended plea deal, Hu accepted convictions for a federal offense that would have carried a sentence of 18-21 months. But prosecutors asked for 60 days, noting Hu’s eventual cooperation and a prosecution witness against Ma, and some underlying health problems.

The defense asked for no jail time, and instead suggested that Hu be made available to police training academies to educate trainees on how to avoid becoming corrupt cops.

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“There is an opportunity here for Mr. Hu to do something more important than to create a general deterrent to the would-be bad cop but to actually create good cops,” said Hu’s attorney, Miranda Kane.

But U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who handed down the sentence, said he believes jail or prison is necessary for a public betrayal of this magnitude. He praised Hu’s “very fine, exemplary” life before the offense, but added, “the fact of the matter is you cannot have police officers who take bribes…that’s just wrong.”

“It’s important that police officers know that if they are importuned to deviate from the appropriate behavior, accept these types of gifts or whatever, they will suffer a serious punishment,” Breyer said. “And if you don’t do that, then I wonder if I’m really doing my job…There are policeman, unfortunately, some, who are susceptible to these types of favors. And for them, the sentence must be clear that there are consequences.”

Before he was formally sentenced, Hu apologized to “family, friends, my law enforcement colleagues, the Asian community, and Ma’s victims for the betrayal of trust, disappointment and pain I have caused by my selfish acts.” He paused to compose himself several times during his statement.

“I convinced myself that it was ok, and I continued down the wrong path and dug a bigger hole for myself,” Hu said, later adding, “I have learned a very hard lesson and I know I will pay for it for the rest of my life.”

Once known as legendary officer who broke barriers

Born in Hong Kong, Hu joined the Oakland police force in 1981 and become known as a respected liaison officer in the city’s Chinatown. The FBI deputized Hu to work on organized crime cases in the 1990s.  Among OPD Asian officers, Hu was known as “dai lo,” or big brother.

When he met Ma in 1991, he was a rising star in the police department. The two grew close.

Over the years, Hu had helped Ma avoid arrest, including after a fire of an illegal marijuana grow in Oakland, and wrote a letter to an immigration judge in 2002 to stop the court from deporting Ma, after a felony pimping arrest in San Rafael ended in a conviction of misdemeanor running a house of prostitution and a 45-day jail sentence.

In 2007, Hu retired from Oakland police and joined the Alameda County DA’s office as an inspector. The following year, he began accepting bribes from Ma, including trips to Las Vegas, and the lease on a $46,000 car, prosecutors said. Ma also convinced Hu to invest $40,000 in a real estate venture, then returned the money in cash when Hu determined it was a sham.

At the beginning, Ma was known as a small time crook. But in 2013, Hu began suspecting Ma’s involvement in the murders of Chen and Kong, prosecutors said. He kept the information to himself, afraid that his own misconduct would come to light. Prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo that he also offered his help to the FBI, hoping to cover his own tracks, but that federal agents were suspicious of his motives and kept him in the dark.

Kong was known to be a rival of Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, the infamous leader of the Ghee Kung Tong organization. Chow was convicted in a separate trial of being part of a conspiracy to murder Kong, though his attorneys argue the killing was not related to an organized crime syndicate.

Ma rode with the couple to a secluded, wooded area, promising to show off his made up marijuana grow. From the back seat of a minivan, he first opened fire on Kong, then turned the gun on Chen, who was startled awake from a nap as the first shots were fired, authorities said.

Hu is only the latest public official to be implicated in the lengthy federal investigation into Chow and his associates. In 2018, San Francisco Sheriff’s deputy Michael Kim was sentenced to probation, and Hu implicated another former Oakland officer — Sgt. Warren Young — as having accepted bribes from Ma. Earlier this year, disgraced former State Sen. Leland Yee was freed from federal prison after serving a five-year term for accepting bribes related to an illegal international firearms trafficking ring.

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