Lawyers in East Bay corruption case see racial profiling in FBI stings

The attorneys for two Oakland contractors charged with bid rigging in an offshoot of the FBI investigations that netted former state Sen. Leland Yee and Chinatown gangster Raymond Shrimp Boy Chow are accusing the FBI of conducting a decadelong campaign to entrap African Americans in and out of office in crimes that the agency itself created.

In a court filing this week, the attorneys said the FBI used a “well-paid contract employee” who went by the name William Joseph to “travel around the country and tell racially charged lies to African American citizens and public officials in an effort to entrap those officials into participating in government sting operations.”

The court filing doesn’t name the agent, but in an unusual move states that, “If one simply googles the phrase ‘Possible Government Witness Has Criminal History,’ a photo of the agent, along with his true name” appears.

What pops up is a news story from a Baton Rouge, La., TV station about a “private citizen” who was paid $547,000 by the FBI from 2006 to 2010 to take part in stings in Louisiana and elsewhere. (The “criminal history” refers to another figure involved in the Louisiana case, not Joseph.)

Dennis Riordan, who made the filing in U.S. District Court in San Francisco along with fellow attorney Martha Boersch, a former federal prosecutor, said they’ve determined that the private citizen was Joseph and that most of the sting targets were, like Joseph, African American.

“It’s a classic case of racial profiling,” Riordan said.

Riordan and Boersch are seeking to have their clients, Oakland construction company executives Len Turner and his brother, Lance Turner, tried separately from six other defendants charged in the case of alleged bid rigging and bribery. The case involves construction contracts at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and two facilities operated by the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

To back up their charge that the FBI was targeting blacks in the Bay Area, Riordan and Boersch cite the “unsuccessful effort to entrap four African American city council persons in 2013, two in San Francisco and two in Oakland.”

We first reported in April 2014 that an FBI operative posing as an Atlanta developer named William Joseph had met with San Francisco Supervisors London Breed and Malia Cohen — and later with Oakland City Council members Larry Reid and Lynette Gibson McElhaney — claiming to be flush with cash and…

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