By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The investigation culminated in a dramatic series of raids launched against 33 suspected gaming sites on Super Bowl Sunday, 1995. In a proffer Chang gave to the United States Attorney's Office a few months later, he told how he became "like partners" with Fang, a fellow member of the Hsi Lai Temple. Chang referred large bettors, who in turn represented "groups of people who pooled their money together to make bets," to Fang and other bookmakers, and was paid a commission for referrals. He also "frequently handled the collections" for the bettors he referred, delivering cash payments to Fang's Wong Shin Health Spa and an associated stock brokerage, according to an FBI report. In the case of one unfortunate bettor who piled up $50,000 in gambling debts, Chang gave the bettor's address, as well as his family's address in San Francisco, to one of the ring's enforcers, whom Chang understood would "beat people if they didn't pay up," according to the report.
When the list of 15 indictments stemming from the Super Bowl Sunday raids came down a year later, Chang's name was not on it. In fact, Chang has never been indicted for or convicted of any crime.
However, the FBI was sufficiently concerned about Chang's associations, and his proximity to Baca, that according to a Sheriff's Department source, Smith forwarded a copy of the newspaper ad for the Baca fund-raiser to his counterpart in the Sheriff's Department, Lieutenant Bob Cook. This was standard practice, as Smith explained over coffee at a Carrow's restaurant near the bureau's West Covina office. â
Smith declined to discuss the Chang referral specifically. He then explained, "One of the things you have to remember about people affiliated with organized crime, whether Chinese or Italian, is that they want to make themselves legitimate. One of the ways they do that is by getting close to politicians and other prominent people. And one of the things we can do is let those politicians know who they are dealing with."
At some point after the election, Baca was personally briefed about Chang's background by the FBI, according to a statement given to KCOP, Channel 13 news by Tim McNally, former head of the Los Angeles office. "The sheriff was new, and our concern was this individual was involved in his campaign effort, supporting him," said McNally. "And we wanted to let him know he [Chang] came up in an investigation."
In a subsequent interview with the Weekly, McNally said he made his contact with Baca in January. But in the weeks and months that followed, Baca appeared wholly untroubled by Chang's background. Chang was welcomed into Baca's inner circle and, with the sheriff's blessing, quickly took the lead in forming LACASA.
DEPUTY EDDIE LEUNG HAD BEEN AUDITIONing for his role as "Sheriff of the San Gabriel Valley" for years before Baca tapped him to be a key player in the Sheriff's Department's new Asian Crime Task Force. A regular on the social scene, fluent in both Mandarin and Cantonese, Leung's name was in the Chinese-language newspapers so often that he needed no introduction when mentioned in stories. The 10-year department veteran even hosted segments of a weekly cable-access show, A Week in Walnut. "Eddie was a big shot," said one person who followed Leung's career. "He acted like he was the only Chinese police officer in the department."
He was one of the most political cops as well. Aside from his friendship with Chang, Leung cultivated contacts among groups like the Chinese-American Association of Walnut, where he was community relations officer, according to Walnut mayor Joaquin Lim. Leung also backed the successful City Council bid of his captain, Larry Waldie, viewed by insiders as Baca's right-hand man.
Baca acknowledged Leung's prominence when he named him to lead the department's new Asian-crime initiative at the Hsi Lai Temple luncheon in December. This is what Baca had promised the Asian community: more Asian faces in leadership roles. Eddie Leung would be a role model in the community, Baca told the audience, "an example for Chinese adolescents."
Among the old hands in the department's existing Asian Organized Crime Unit, however, Baca's announcement was met with something like disbelief. "One of the guys in the office had an informant who called and said, 'Hey, in the Chinese newspaper it says Eddie Leung is going to be head of the new unit,'" recalled one detective. "We all laughed." The joke was that Leung was seen as patently unqualified for the job. He was a mere deputy, with limited skills as an investigator and no management experience.
The joke, it turned out, was on them. Baca soon assigned Leung -- with the help of two other young, bilingual deputies, David Do and Thanh Ly -- the task of drafting a formal proposal for a unit he called the Asian Liaison and Investigation Team (ALIT). As the detective put it, "The next thing we heard, Eddie was meeting with the sheriff and management, and this new concept was formed."
The scheme played up the need for policing of Asians by Asians, who, because of language and cultural barriers, it stated, "have not been receiving adequate law-enforcement services" from the department. The task force would respond through "hands-on interaction and cultural sensitivity to the needs of this very important constituency." Specifically, Leung called for the "creation of a team of investigators comprised of bilingual and bicultural Asian-American deputy sheriffs," "independent" of the existing organized-crime unit.