The reputed head of the United Bamboo Gang in Southern California has been charged in a federal investigation with conspiracy to participate in the 1984 murder of Chinese-American journalist Henry Liu.
However, the widow of Liu said she believes the gang leader, Chang An-lo, is innocent after he called her from his jail cell Tuesday night.
"He said he wanted me to trust him. He said he had nothing to do with Henry's murder," said Helen Liu in a telephone interview from her Bay Area home. "I feel very strange. From the contact I've had with him before, I think he's sincere. I don't think he had anything to do with it.
Chang, a former Stanford University graduate student who is known to gang members as White Wolf, was charged Monday along with 10 other gang members with racketeering as part of their membership in the Taiwan-based international crime syndicate with branches in Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Las Vegas.
In addition to the racketeering and conspiracy, Chang and other gang members were alleged to have participated in a plot to import billions of dollars worth of heroin from Thailand into New York.
The charges filed in New York grew out of a four-month undercover investigation in which FBI agents infiltrated the gang and secretly recorded conversations. Chang has been in jail since June on unrelated charges of kidnaping and attempted extortion. He is believed to have directed the activities from his jail cell.
Chang's alleged involvement in plotting the October, 1984, murder of Liu at Liu's Daly City home came as a surprise to Helen Liu and Daly City police, whose investigation revealed that three other gang members planned and carried out the murder.
Two of those members, including Chen Chi-li, the "Godfather" of the gang, were convicted in Taiwan of murdering Liu and have been jailed. The third suspect remains at large.
Police Capt. Tom Reese, who headed the Daly City investigation, said his detectives believe that Chang probably had prior knowledge of the Liu murder.
"But we could never determine to what extent he knew or was involved in the plot, " Reese said.
Mrs. Liu said she and Chang have met once and have had several conversations in which the gang leader has told her of his innocence.
During a public meeting last March in Monterey Park attended by Mrs. Liu, Chang stood up and publicly apologized for the role of his "brothers" in the murder.
"I feel he was very sincere in trying to help the case," Mrs. Liu said. "It really shocked me when they said he was involved. I don't think I believe it."
In interviews with The Times in March, Chang admitted that the killers stayed at his home in the weeks prior to the murder. But he insisted that if he had known of the plot, he would have stopped it.
Chang later cooperated with Daly City police and the FBI and at one point turned over a crucial tape recording in which Chen confessed to the murder and implicated high Taiwan military intelligence officers in the plot.
In the confession, Chen alleged that the intelligence officers wanted Liu murdered because of his many books and articles critical of Taiwan's ruling family. The officers also were later tried and convicted in Taiwan.