Disgraced Oakland cop Harry Hu may not be the only police officer who accepted bribes from a criminal with ties to Chinatown’s underworld.
As part of his plea deal signed last year, Hu testified against Wing Wo Ma, 53, who was later found guilty by a federal jury of murdering suspected Chinese underworld gangster Jim Tat Kong, 51, and his girlfriend, Cindy Bao Feng Chen, 38, in October 2013.
During Ma’s three-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer, Hu said in two days of sworn testimony Oct. 24 and 25 that former Oakland Police Sgt. Warren Young had accompanied him on trips to Vegas and Reno, according to the Bay Area News Group. Hu and Young had each invested $40,000 in one of Ma’s fraudulent hotel real-estate schemes, but when Hu realized the venture was a scam, Ma returned $80,000 in cash to them.
Young retired from the Oakland Police Department in 2015 and currently works as a welfare fraud investigator for Alameda County. He has not been charged with a crime, even though he allegedly accepted what Hu admitted were bribes, the Bay Area News Group reported. But, unlike Hu—who was Young’s supervisor while the two worked for the Oakland Police Department—Young has not been accused of protecting Ma from prosecution for his crimes.
“From at least as early as late 2008, Ma provided me with things of value that included at least three trips to Las Vegas and a trip to Reno,” Hu testified in his plea agreement. “Ma provided my airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, alcohol, and entertainment that included hiring women or ‘hostesses’ to spend time with me and others at karaoke bars, also referred to as ‘PR Rooms.’ In 2009, Ma leased a Mercedes-Benz for my personal use.”
Hu said he drove the Mercedes for about three months before returning it to Ma, also known as Mark Ma or Fat Mark.
“I knew and understood that by providing me these things of value, Ma was offering me bribes,” Hu stated. “I understood the quid pro quo for accepting these bribes was that when asked, Ma expected me to help him avoid prosecution by taking official action or by refraining from taking official action in my role as a peace officer.”
Born in Hong Kong, Hu was one of Oakland’s best-known police officers and helped to build trust among a Chinese-American community skeptical of police. He gained respect among local law enforcement agencies as a Chinatown gang expert and played a key role in dismantling gangs, including the Wo Hop To gang, that operated in Chinatown. Hu earned the rank of lieutenant before leaving the Oakland Police Department in 2007 when he became an inspector for Alameda County District Attorney’s office.
Hu met Ma, who was an informant for the FBI Organized Crime Squad, in 1991, and their relationship grew stronger over the years. Ma was often given light sentences for his crimes. When he was arrested in 2002 on charges of pimping in connection with a massage parlor/prostitution ring in Marin County, Ma was given a 45-day jail sentence. Hu also wrote a letter to an immigration judge to halt deportation proceedings against Ma, according to a 2015 FBI affidavit.
Like Young and other Asian-American police officers in Oakland, Ma referred to Hu as his “dai lo,” which is Chinese for “big brother” and a moniker of respect,” Hu said in his plea deal.
Ma collected money from other criminals to bribe Hu and used his name and reputation to lend credibility to his fraudulent investment schemes and attract investors, according to federal prosecutors.
In January 2013, Ma began borrowing money from Kong for several business ventures, including a marijuana-growing operation and a real estate scheme in Mendocino County, according to a U.S. Department of Justice. Fearing retribution from Kong when he was unable to repay the money, Ma met with Kong and Chen—on her birthday. While seated in the couple’s minivan, Ma shot each of the victims once in the head and left their bodies in the vehicle parked in a secluded, wooded area.
When he was interviewed by the FBI about the pot-growing operation scheme in Mendocino County and his involvement with Kong, Ma panicked. He called and texted Hu to arrange a meeting.
“I agreed to meet with Ma, in an area behind the Executive Inn and Suites motel in Oakland, where we had met on previous occasions. I wanted to meet Ma there to avoid anyone seeing us together,” Hu said.
At the meeting, Ma called in his favors, expecting Hu to shield him from further investigations and prosecution.
“He told me he was also asked questions about his involvement in the murders of Jim Tat Kong and Cindy Chen,” Hu said in his plea deal.
Though Hu claims he “did not take any official action on Ma’s behalf” after that meeting, he did not report the activity to authorities. Hu also admitted lying to FBI agents about the true nature of his relationship with Ma in October 2015 and again in July 2018.
“During my second FBI interview, I told them my relationship with Ma ended in 2009 when, in truth and fact, my relationship with Ma continued to at least October 2013,” Hu said.
Hu, 63, could face up to five years in federal prison when he will be sentenced in May.
Ma was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 6, 2017. In October, he was convicted on murder, weapons, drug distribution conspiracy, and bribery charges. Ma’s sentencing is set for Feb. 12, 2020, when he could face fines in excess of $5 million and life in prison for his crimes.
“The jury’s verdict makes clear that Wing Wo Ma will answer for the brutal killings of Jim Tat Kong and Cindy Bao Feng Chen,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said in a DOJ statement. “The verdict also ensures that Ma’s personal crime wave, including murder, drug distribution, bribery, and conspiracy, has come to an end.”
“Wing Wo Ma committed these homicides in cold blood and showed a blatant disregard for the rule of law,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge John Bennett.