By Matthew Hendley
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By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
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"Are these people suspected of anything? You know them?" Wong asks.
He's told that Kenny Tat had confirmed to New Times that Wong had introduced him and Tom Tat to Sheriff Arpaio, and that they had had Executive Posse badges for a few months. (During that brief phone interview, Kenny Tat also had denied being involved in any gambling, and said he doesn't know what Wah Ching is.)
Wong is asked what he knew about the Tats before he recommended them for membership.
"Well," Wong replies, "I knew [Kenny] to be a, like, a born-again Christian. In the world of gangs and all that he's a born-again, per se, gang member. I know of his background, he's with Wah Ching in California, but he has given me some informations that were pertinent . . . about a shipment of semiautomatic [guns] to Macao. Okay? So with that as a credit to him, I said would you be able to keep an eye open for the community. . . . I interviewed him and he said, 'Yeah, well, I'll keep doing that and also you know possibly you know someone I could recognize, a new face, and I'll tip you off on that.' So I did that."
Wong then claims that he made the Sheriff's Office aware of Kenny Tat's alleged connection to Wah Ching, one of the most notorious organized-crime syndicates in California, known for home invasions, extortion and heroin trafficking.
Arpaio's top assistant, David Hendershott, who oversees the posses, denies that Wong ever told the Sheriff's Office of any gang activity in Kenny Tat's background. Hendershott also says he's unaware that any other law enforcement agencies keep tabs on the Tats.
Asked whether he is aware that the Tats are watched by Valley gang investigators, Wong replies, "Well, they're into illegal gambling.
"Yes. Into illegal bet on ball games," Wong says.
Apparently recognizing an opportunity to turn a potentially embarrassing situation into an enforcement opportunity, Wong continues, "Yes. Yes, I'm not saying that I condone it or anything, but what I'm saying is I'm letting some people know--some unidentified people that I work with in the law enforcement, I'm letting them know that these are happening, and their badges can be confiscated and they can be criminally liable."
Wong is asked why he recommended people who may be involved in illegal gambling for the Executive Posse. He replies that he hadn't learned of the Tats' alleged bookmaking until after they received their posse badges.
"I regretted it, and I wanted to make sure that I will make a formal report to the sheriff and let them make a decision. . . . But if they are fraudulently showing [their badges], it's not proper," he offers.
As a matter of fact, he's told, an alleged victim tells New Times that the Tats have done just that. When they demanded to collect on a bet he'd placed, the victim says the Tats flashed their badges, claimed to be deputies, and threatened to take him to jail if he didn't pay up.
"Well, I'm glad you tell me that," Wong replies, "because I can put it in as a recommendation for null and void on their Executive Posse membership. Well, I didn't know that until you tell me. Because I never condone these kind of activities. I'm going to tell the sheriff about it."
"I've never heard of a born-again Wah Ching member," says Detective Alex Femenia, the Phoenix Police Department's Asian-gang specialist. He's recently returned after an 18-month hiatus to studying organized crime, but in the short time he's been back, Femenia says he's received several reports about local Wah Ching activity.
"Wah Ching is big time. . . . The Wah Ching is definitely more than a street gang. They are a major organized-crime syndicate with heavy players and a lot of money," Femenia says.
The gang formed, took its name and became a force in San Francisco after Chinese immigration increased in the mid-Sixties. Over the next 20 years, it established ties with older, nationwide organized-crime networks, but its power base remains in California. Vietnamese immigrants began to join in the 1980s, and today, the Wah Ching is dominated by the more recent arrivals and younger members.
Femenia says victims of Wah Ching activity tend to be other immigrants, particularly small-business owners who are targeted in extortion schemes. He cites the Pearl of Asia restaurant, which formerly existed at Seventh Avenue and Camelback, as an example. "The gangsters ran them out. No question about it," Femenia says.
"Our Asian community is growing with legitimate, hardworking citizens, and with that comes gang members who want to take advantage of them. We are experiencing an influx of some Asian organized crime."
Femenia says he, too, has received reports of heavy gambling in the Asian community, particularly at Great Wall Cuisine.
"I have information from a number of sources [that] it has been going on and it is going on. See, it's not the Great Wall, per se. This occurred about a year ago. The Great Wall became the watering hole. When you look at traditional organized-crime guys, it's not the restaurant that is dirty, it just becomes their meeting place," the detective says.