By Monica Alonzo
By Stephen Lemons
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Dulce Paloma Baltazar Pedraza
By Ray Stern
By Pete Kotz
By Monica Alonzo
By New Times
"My point is, the businesses where they hang out don't necessarily have to be involved. . . . [A]t the Great Wall, the people that go there--are they gambling? You bet, I believe they're gambling. I believe there's sports betting going on. I believe there's private games going on all over the place in the Asian community. That's not unusual."
Ming Loc, the restaurant's owner, says that he knows of no gambling taking place in Great Wall Cuisine, nor of gang ties in Kenny Tat's background. He declined to answer further questions, however, saying that he would call back with someone who spoke better English. He never did.
If he had, he would have been asked about a June 30, 1996, altercation between two Great Wall Cuisine customers over mah-jongg winnings. A Phoenix police report indicates that one of the combatants threatened the life of his foe, whom he attacked with broken crockery. According to the report, the mah-jongg game was the culmination of a party in honor of Ming Loc's mother. Loc admitted to police that before the game started, he had lent $2,000 to the assailant, who, after he lost the money, allegedly took $700 from his victim.
And the man who helped Phoenix police by translating for Ming Loc and others? Manny Wong.
Femenia continues, "But getting back to what Manny says, if Manny knew that one of these guys was a Wah Ching member, and says that he was a born-again Wah Ching member . . . would they be hired as law enforcement? I don't think so."
Femenia says he's received reports suggesting a link between Kenny Tat and the Wah Ching, although he says he has no hard evidence of one. Even a loose association, he says, would concern the Phoenix Police Department.
And if the Phoenix police were to give the Tats badges?
"I would be shocked," he says.
Other law enforcement sources speak of the Tats in even stronger terms. "These are very bad boys," says one investigator, who asked not to be identified, but claimed that his agency and others knew about Kenny Tat's link to Wah Ching, and were concerned about the Tats' alleged gambling and reputed shakedowns.
A source cooperating with a federal law enforcement agency says that that agency is investigating the Tats as well. The source asked that the agency not be named.
Femenia explains that organized crime is common in immigrant communities. "Every ethnic group has them, they have these little thugs that are saying, 'Listen, we don't care if you're working hard; we want a piece of the action,'" Femenia says of Asian crime in general.
"All these guys are from California, and they terrify these business people."
Femenia complains that it's difficult to get victims to talk. "Believe me, there's a lot of money being lost. We're talking $10,000 pots. . . . We know that these kind of games are going on.
"The problem is getting a cooperative witness to come forward."
Posse overseer David Hendershott makes the same complaint. After New Times brought Manny Wong's admissions to the attention of the Sheriff's Office, Hendershott temporarily confiscated the Tats' badges and brought them in for questioning.
But after a two-hour interview, Hendershott says he has no reason to fire the Tats from the Executive Posse. "We're hitting dead ends down here," he says.
The Tats denied any wrongdoing. Manny Wong also changed his story, saying that he knew of no gang affiliation in the Tats' background.
"Please believe me, I will investigate these guys to the hilt. But I'm on air. I've got nothing," Hendershott says.
Hendershott asks that New Timespersuade Phuong, the man who says the Tats flashed their badges, to call the Sheriff's Office. Perhaps then, Hendershott says, he can take some action.
But Phuong claims he already has notified the Sheriff's Office. Twice he says he's called to tell sheriff's employees that the Tats are shaking down their Asian clientele with their posse badges. And the second time he mentioned that he, too, had been victimized and offered to sign a complaint.
Marvin Weide, however, said last week that the Sheriff's Office had found nothing to support those allegations.
He says he remembers seeing the Tats only once, at a posse dinner late in 1996 when they were inducted and given badges.
Normally, he says, prospective members are interviewed by Weide and one of his lieutenants before being sent on to the Sheriff's Office for more interviews. But in this case, that process was bypassed.
"It sure sounds like it, doesn't it?" he says. Unless the Sheriff's Office can find more evidence than it has, however, Weide says the Tats won't be asked to leave the posse.
"They'll be getting their badges back," he says.
Awall, not surprisingly, divides Great Wall Cuisine right down the middle. The left half is reserved for banquets and private parties. And on a recent weekend afternoon, the room was empty except for a table behind a screen. From behind it, the sound of mah-jongg tiles clinking could be heard, mixed with the voices of several men.
When Tom Tat is asked for, the manager comes out from behind the screen. He initially says he can't answer questions, however, because he's working.