Subpoena sheds light on FBI investigation of Oakland mayor, Duongs

Oakland's city attorney faces a Thursday deadline to hand over documents to the FBI after the U.S. Attorney in Northern California issued criminal grand jury subpoenas to city officials in the widening probe of the city's politically connected recycling company owners and Mayor Sheng Thao.

The subpoena was dated June 25, five days after the FBI raided the offices of California Waste Solutions, the recycling company, and the homes of two of its owners, father-and-son David and Andy Duong, as well as Thao's home.

A source told KTVU that Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker's office sent letters to as many as 100 city officials and employees, telling them not to delete or alter any documents under subpoena.

The subpoena said Parker would not be required to appear in person at the federal courthouse Thursday if she voluntarily complies with the records request.

Parker and Mayor Thao declined to comment.

City Councilman Noel Gallo said all the council members received the letter. He said it is disappointing to see the subpoena when he and others are working to rebuild the public's trust in Oakland's government.

"Sadly enough, we're at this point now and I'm trying to re-establish confidence and respect from the public due to the lack of safety we're experiencing, and certainly this isn't going to help us at all," Gallo said.

The subpoena issued by Asst. U.S. Attorney Abraham Fine also asked Parker to preserve and provide documents and communications related to Andre Jones, who had been the assistant chief for the State Bureau of Cannabis Control, and who has been Thao's romantic partner for 10 years. The two met when he was chief of staff for Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, where Thao also worked.

In their letter to Parker, federal agents said they also want to see documents related to the 2022 Oakland mayoral election and all calendar entries involving Thao and Jones from June 1, 2022, to present. 

Jones was seen at Thao's Maiden Lane home during the FBI raid, and brought what appeared to be takeout food to her while also going inside to walk their dog. He declined comment then, and he has yet to speak publicly.

Andre Jones sits in his car on Maiden Lane in Oakland. June 20, 2024 

Jones also does not have a listed phone number or email address.  

It's unclear if he has retained an attorney and what his connection is to the FBI probe – if any.

It's the first time his name has publicly surfaced in a document related to the FBI probe. 

UC Law professor David Levine said judging from the details in the subpoena, it appears FBI investigators are closer to making decisions about indictments. 

Levine says it's unlikely, though, to see any of the probe's main targets appear in federal court on Thursday.

"To avoid somebody falling in the trap of self-incrimination, you get notified of whether you are a target of a grand jury and typically, you don't have those people come in," Levine said.

A grand jury is a group of citizens convened by federal prosecutors to hear evidence and testimony. Jurors then decides whether there’s enough evidence to charge someone with a crime. The proceedings are private. 

There is a long list of documents spanning two years that federal agents want to inspect. 

Parker's subpoena told her to be able to produce documents, and not to destroy any, from Jan. 1, 2022 to the present that relate to California Waste Solutions and its employees, including David, Andy, Kristina Victor and Michael Duong.

The subpoena also for the first time brings up preserving documents related to Evolutionary Homes, a company the Duongs helped create in 2022 that makes and sells shipping containers. 

The subpoena names Mario Juarez, political consultants Julie and Chris Wedge and Cesley Frost, who is the interim chief of staff of Alameda County Supervisor Lena Tam, as Evolutionary Homes company members. 

The Evolutionary Homes website currently alleges that David Duong has "failed to meet his obligations towards his employees in Mexico" – accusations that have not been substantiated.  It is unclear who is making the allegations. 

The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the existence of the subpoena. The Oaklandside and the East Bay Times also reported on the document.

KTVU then obtained the subpoena through a California Public Records Request. 


Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao addresses FBI raid and more

Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao gave her first interview with a news organization on Tuesday following the FBI raid on her house at the end of June.

Juarez is a businessman and former political candidate who pleaded not guilty to felony charges for allegedly passing bad checks to produce attack ads against Thao's mayoral rival, Loren Taylor. 

The Chronicle reported that Juarez and the Duongs have had a falling out – and have conflicting stories about who harmed who. 

The Duongs say that Juarez threatened Andy Duong and his family on May 3, the Chronicle reported, but Juarez said that he was beaten and possibly shot at on June 9, allegedly by members of the Duong family at Evolutionary Homes on Embarcadero. 

Juarez has not returned a call made by KTVU. 

According to Parker's subpoena, the U.S. Attorney's Office also wants to see documents and communication related to any emergency declaration of homelessness in 2023, contracts between Oakland and any waste management company and the use or development of the Oakland Army Base.

Councilwoman Carroll Fife wanted to let homeless people relocated to temporary shelters on the Army base, but that plan didn't pan out as staff said it would cost too much to clean up the polluted area. 

Cal Waste Solutions had also been against the homeless moving into the base, city records show, because they have had a contract to build there, but have yet to move in.

The subpoena also asks to see documents related to the appointments of any city of Oakland post, including the Port of Oakland board of commissioners, Public Works, the Planning and Building Department, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the city administrator's office. 


Who are the Duongs, the family at the center of the FBI Oakland probe?

Not only did the FBI raid Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao's home on Thursday, but they searched three other locations connected to a politically powerful family. So, who are the Duongs?

In July 2019, the Oakland Public Ethics Commission launched an investigation into allegations that California Waste Solutions had been funneling illegal campaign contributions to at least five Oakland City Council candidates, including Thao, as well as City Council candidates in El Cerrito and San Jose, from 2013 through 2018. 

A month later, California’s campaign finance watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, opened an investigation into Andy Duong related to laundered campaign contributions, state records show. 

Both investigations are still ongoing. 

Following the FBI raid, the Duongs have said they have done nothing illegal or improper. 

In an interview last week with KTVU, Thao said that Jones is "absolutely" not involved in any kind of work with her administration. 

She declined to say more about him or the FBI investigation. 

And in a news conference four days after the raid, Thao declared her innocence and told her critics that she wasn't going to step down from office. 

"I want to be crystal clear," Thao said at a news conference at City Hall. "I have done nothing wrong."