Manny, Joe & Tat

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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 Times persuade 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.

But he relents, saying that he's surprised that Manny Wong has said that illegal gambling occurs at Great Wall. "Manny said that?" he asks several times.

Tat denies that he's ever flashed his posse badge. He says that he told the Sheriff's Office he is not involved in gambling and that he has no organized-crime connections. When he's asked about Manny Wong's statement about Kenny Tat's connection to the Wah Ching, Tom Tat replies: "I cannot answer questions for Kenny."

He says that Kenny is out of the country, that he doesn't know where Kenny has gone, and that he does not know when Kenny will come back.

Manny Wong, meanwhile, attempts to back away from statements made in an earlier, tape-recorded interview. He now says he's seen no illegal activities at Great Wall Cuisine. The kinds of bets being made fall in the $5 to $10 range, he says. He never said that Kenny Tat was in the Wah Ching, he says.

He's reminded, however, that Kenny Tat is driving a new red BMW a restaurant owner is reputed to have surrendered in lieu of gambling debts. Wong admits that that is true, but only partially: He says the restaurant owner had lost tens of thousands of dollars to the Ying On, a local Asian benevolent society, playing a game called Pai-Gow, and that Tat had simply backed up his IOUs in return for the car.

So much for $5 kitties.
Later, Wong sounds more contrite. "Apparently, I might have been a little rushed in sending in the application [for the Tats' membership].

"I should have asked around some more about their activities with the alleged gambling . . . but I haven't seen any such activities as far as I'm concerned."

As for his plan that the Tats would be able to pass on news about organized crime to Sheriff Arpaio, Wong admits that the Tats never did send any.

Regardless of the outcome, Wong says he was trying to do something good for the posse and the community.

"The best resource we can get is somebody who's in with the lawbreakers. How else do you try and get information?" Wong says. ". . . That's why I recruited them.

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Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega