"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.
"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.