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.  

It's unclear what the federal agents were looking for exactly. 

But agents were seen scouring the homes of David Duong and his son, Andy Duong – on Skyline Boulevard and Viewcrest Court –  as well as the the Duong family company, Cal Waste Solution, at 1211 Embarcadero, along with Thao's home on Maiden Lane. 

A neighbor told KTVU that they saw two people put in handcuffs at the Viewcrest home yet no arrests have been made public as of Friday. Postal inspectors were also investigating the Skyline Boulevard home and IRS investigators were seen at the Cal Waste offices. 

So, who are the Duongs?

The family owns Cal Waste Solutions, Oakland's recycling company, which also provides junk pick-up in San Jose, and an integrated waste management facility in their native Vietnam.

According to the family's company website, the Duong's escaped the Vietnam War and settled in San Francisco, where they tout their humble beginnings. Sixteen members of their family lived in two studio apartments for a while, according to the family story.

David Duong, the eldest of the siblings, learned about recycling from his parents, who owned the largest paper mill in South Vietnam and he became the president and CEO of Cal Waste Solutions. Sister Kristina Duong became the CFO and brother Victor Duong became the vice president. 

The Duongs say that they have established the "largest recycling company in Northern California," employing 300 employees. 

"For the Duong family, this venture is about more than business. It’s about giving back to the communities that have given so much to them – even the home they were forced to leave more than forty years ago," the family states on its website.

In a statement Friday sent to KTVU, the company said that the Duongs are aware of the FBI search of their company, emphasizing that they haven't been charged with any crime or wrongdoing.

"We are activcely cooperating with the government's investigation," Cal Waste said, adding that they are "confident" the government will find they haven't done anything illegal or improper.

"CWS will continue to proudly provide recycling services to the countless communities throughout the Bay Area," the statement read. 

FBI agents raid the home of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on 80 Maiden Lane. June 20, 2024

In 2014, the Oakland City Council awarded California Waste Solutions a billion-dollar contract to run the city's collection services, over Waste Management, a much larger company that had also bid for the job, The Oaklandside reported. 

In 2017, the city of Oakland sued California Waste Solutions for allegedly overcharging some landlords of multi-unit buildings and making millions of dollars of additional profit. Oakland alleged that Cal Waste was charging 550% of what their contract allowed. 

The company filed a countersuit against the city. 

The parties agreed to a settlement in 2021 where California Waste Solutions would refund landlords over $6 million and reduce their monthly premium service rate. 

The settlement required that Cal Waste refund approximately 2,000 multi-family building owners for those years of overcharging, and lower their rates for backyard service for recycling carts going forward. 

"The settlement will make these Oakland ratepayers whole, remedying the harm they suffered for years as a result of CWS’ overcharging practices," the city wrote in a news release on Dec. 10, 2021.

FBI agents search for evidence at the home of Andy Duong on View Crest Court in Oakland. June 20, 2024

Cal Waste faced other issues with the city of Oakland, too.  

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. That investigation is still not resolved, the Chronicle reported. 

Last July, David Duong was named in a warning letter issued by the FPPC. The watchdog found that a committee he is associated with, Duong Family Investments LLC, failed to disclose itself as a major donor in 2018 and warned that it could face fines of $5,000 per violation in the future.

In records made public as part of a lawsuit, Public Ethics Commission investigators claimed that Andy and David Duong used "straw donors" to disguise the money they were giving to Oakland councilmembers, The Oaklandside reported.

A straw donor is someone who gives money to a campaign and is secretly reimbursed by the person who really is putting up the money.

Despite their troubles, the Duongs know politicians at every level in the country. 

Their social media accounts are a virtual who's who of powerful politicians, which The Oaklandside first reported. 

On Instagram, Andy Duong posted photos of himself with Thao, former District 6 City Councilmember Loren Taylor, and District 2 Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas. 

Andy Duong also has selfies with Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Senator Nancy Skinner, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, former Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, and Gov. Gavin Newsom. Duong has also been photographed with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Duongs have also taken many pictures with both California Attorney General Rob Bonta and his wife, State Assemblymember Mia Bonta. 

"We are aware of the matter. We suggest reaching out directly to the FBI who is handling the investigation," the Attorney General's office told KTVU on Friday. 

Mia Bonta's office also recommended contacting the FBI directly. 

In a March 27, 2021 post, Duong posted 10 pictures of himself with Rob Bonta at different events, including a Warriors basketball game, The Oaklandside first reported. 

On Facebook, David Duong has shared photos of himself meeting with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Virginia Senator Tom Kaine, former Secretary of State John Kerry, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley. Other photos show him with the governors of Montana, Maine, New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas, Arizona, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. 

The Duongs are also connected to Thao, who went on a junket to Vietnam last summer through the Vietnamese American Business Association, which organized the trip. David and Victor Duong were the chair and co-chair of the group. 

At the time, Thao said the purpose of the trip was to promote the Port of Oakland, which does significant business with markets in Asia, including Vietnam. Thao was accompanied by Oakland and Alameda County officials, including Supervisor Lena Tam and Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez, the Oaklandside reported. 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Port of Oakland commissioners also went on the trip and they later reimbursed the association. 

As of Friday, no one had been criminally charged with any crime and the FBI said there wouldn't be any updates for at least a week. 

KTVU's Amanda Quintana and Tom Vacar contributed to this report.