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Suspended California lawmaker Leland Yee faces new conspiracy charges

By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal grand jury has returned conspiracy charges against California State Senator Leland Yee, adding to the suspended lawmaker's legal woes after he was indicted earlier this year for corruption and taking part in a scheme to traffic guns.

Yee, 65, is one of three California state senators, along with Democrats Roderick Wright and Ron Calderon, who were suspended in March over ethics charges, costing their party a cherished two-thirds legislative majority in the Senate during an election year.

Yee, a longtime gun-control advocate, was charged with wire fraud and conspiracy in April over wide-ranging corruption accusations, including that he had accepted cash from an undercover agent posing as a customer seeking to purchase illegal weapons. He pleaded not guilty at the time.

The latest indictment against Yee, which was entered in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, includes and expands on the April charges. It accuses him of conspiracy to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity under a law originally used against the mob.

Friday's indictment says that Yee's campaign team was the enterprise that carried out the conspiracy beginning in 2011, by soliciting contributions for his election in exchange for his votes and influence in the state Senate.

A former San Francisco supervisor and one-time mayoral candidate, Yee is also accused of a related charge of conspiracy to obtain property under color of official right.

In one act covered by the latest charges, Keith Jackson, a campaign consultant for Yee, told an undercover FBI agent that Yee could help the owner of a National Football League team, the indictment stated.

The undercover agent offered to pay Yee $60,000 for a favorable vote on a worker's compensation bill before California lawmakers that would be costly to NFL teams, and the campaign consultant accepted the deal although the $60,000 was never paid, the indictment said.

Yee was arrested earlier this year but is free on $500,000 bond. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted of the charges against him. He withdrew from a race for California secretary of state after his arrest.

Yee's attorney, James Lassart, could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)

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