June 20, 2024

USA: Oakland Mayor Recall Effort Moves Forward and FBI Raided Home Of Oakland Mayor This Morning Over Allegations Vietnamese Org Used “Straw Donors,” Or Obscure Third-Party Entities.

UPDATE 6/25/24 at 12:26pm: Added video below.

KPIX | CBS NEWS Bay area published June 24, 2024: Attorney representing Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao resigns after mayor's press conference. Katie Nielsen reports on the latest development following an FBI raid of Mayor Sheng Thao's home.

KRON 4 published Oakland could have 4 mayors in 'very short time period,' recall expert says. KRON4's Dan Kerman reports.
NBC Bay Area published June 19, 2024: Oakland mayor recall effort moves forward. The group pushing to recall Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao now has enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. Pete Suratos reports.

NBC News, SF Bay Area local
written by Pete Suratos
Wednesday June 19, 2024

The group pushing to recall Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao says it now has enough signatures to place the measure on the November ballot.

Now it’s up to the city to decide the next steps regarding a vote to potentially remove Oakland's top leader from office.

“I think you’re going to see a different tune from the mayor’s administration,” Seneca Scott said.

He is one of the lead organizers pushing to recall Thao.

On Tuesday, the Alameda County Registrar's Office confirmed that organizers have submitted enough verified signatures to put a recall vote on the ballot this November.

The efforts to recall Mayor Thao began in January and Scott says they were able to gather just over 40,000 signatures.

“I think the numbers are clear, voters want Thao gone, voters want her gone,” Scott said.

He said recall supporters are unhappy with the mayor’s handling of issues ranging from crime, homelessness, and her controversial firing of then-Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong.

“She demoralized the city. We trusted LeRonne Armstrong, we don’t trust Mayor Thao,” Scott said.

“I think we’re extremely disappointed to see such a concerted effort … to really undermine these newly affected officials,” Pecolia Manigo said.

She is the political director of Oakland Rising -- a nonprofit focused on increasing voter participation in the city.

She’s opposed to this recall vote as well as the upcoming recall vote of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, claiming it could impact voters who may feel they’re vote doesn’t matter if recalls become the new norm.

“It’s made people question, ‘why vote?’ and I think that that consequence is what’s really what concerns us, that this is starting to turn off voters,” Manigo said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the mayor’s office for comment but were forwarded to her campaign team who have not responded.

With the signatures verified, the city council will be in charge of what happens next with the next council meeting set for July 2.
MassLive published June 20, 2024: Watch as FBI raids Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao's home.

From the AP: Federal authorities raided a home belonging to Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao early Thursday as part of an investigation that included a search of at least two other houses, authorities said.

FBI agents carried boxes out of 80 Maiden Lane, a four-bedroom home that property records link to the first-term mayor, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Thao's spokesperson Francis Zamora referred inquiries to the FBI.

“The FBI conducted court-authorized law enforcement activity on Maiden Lane in Oakland this morning. We are unable to provide additional information at this time,” a bureau statement said.

Agents also conducted searches about 3 miles to the south at two homes owned by members of the politically influential Duong family that owns the recycling company Cal Waste Solutions, the Chronicle said. The firm has been investigated over campaign contributions to Thao and other elected city officials, the local news outlet Oaklandside reported in 2020.

One of the properties is owned by Andy Duong and the other is connected to David and Linda Duong, according to records cited by the Chronicle.

Phone messages and emails seeking comment on the raid from Cal Waste Solutions officials were not immediately returned. Personal phone numbers for for members of the Duong family could not be found.

Thao, 38, assumed office in January 2023 after a stint on the Oakland City Council.
ABC7 News Bay Area published June 20, 2024: FBI raids home of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao: source. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao's home was among four locations raided by the FBI Thursday morning, a source confirms to ABC7 News.

East Bay Times
written by Rick Hurd, Shomik Mukherjee, and Jakob Rodgers
Thursday June 20, 2024

OAKLAND — The FBI raided the home of Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao on Thursday morning, one of multiple properties searched including residences to members of a politically connected family who run the city’s contracted recycling company.

The FBI in a statement confirmed that it was “conducting court authorized law enforcement activity on Maiden Lane and Viewcrest Court. We are unable to provide additional information at this time.”

Public records connect the home at 80 Maiden Lane to Thao and the Viewcrest Court residence to Andy Duong, whose family runs California Waste Solutions. Agents were seen collecting evidence at both homes early Thursday.

A person staying in the Lincoln Highlands neighborhood told this news organization that she awoke at 6 a.m. to the sound of FBI agents yelling, “Open the door! Open the door” at the residence next door, where she said Thao lives.

“I thought it might be a domestic disturbance or something,” Nina Medina, a retired San Diego police detective said. “But later agents were going in and out of the residence with gloves on.”

Another person staying with Medina on Maiden Lane said she saw a man being escorted out of the residence by agents but that he was not detained.

Attempts to reach officials from the city of Oakland were not immediately successful.

“I was shocked when I turned on the news this morning. I do not know what is going on,” Councilmember Carroll Fife said in an interview. “I don’t want to get sidetracked by something sensational that none of us have any control over. My goal is to be the leadership needed in the city and continue to move Oakland forward.”

Records indicate the home on Viewcrest Court belongs to Andy Duong, who along with his father David owns the West Oakland-based company California Waste Solutions, the city’s curbside recycling provider.

A man who lives nearby said around 4:40 a.m. heard what sounded like a flash bang coming from a house on the block, then heard instructions aired over a loudspeaker demanding that someone come outside. He saw about 10 agents, some with rifles and some who appeared to be carrying a hand-held battering ram.

A few miles away, law enforcement officials wearing police vests and U.S. Postal Inspection uniforms were seen outside 12568 Skyline Boulevard, a home tied to David Duong. One official there declined to comment.

The Duongs have been the subject of an investigation by the city’s Public Ethics Commission since 2020 over allegations they used “straw donors,” or obscure third-party entities, to funnel money to City Council candidates in past elections.

Thao, a first-term council member at the time, was alleged to have received money through the alleged straw-donor scheme, along with current council members Rebecca Kaplan and Dan Kalb, plus former councilmembers Larry Reid and Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

The complaint has remained under investigation since then, with few official updates. California Waste Solutions is a close partner and major sponsor of the Oakland-based Vietnamese American Business Association, which last year contributed heavily to a Bay Area delegation to Vietnam that involved lunches with foreign officials and tours of the country’s electric-vehicle manufacturing plants. David Duong is the chairman of the association.

The 11-day business trip was led by Thao — whose own travel expenses were covered by the Port of Oakland — and included numerous city and Alameda County officials, including Sheriff Yesenia Sanchez, Supervisor Lena Tam, along with actor Danny Glover.

Earlier this year, the mayor’s spokesperson confirmed that the Vietnamese business association covered the trips of two staff members in Oakland’s department of economic and workforce development.

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