PORTLAND, Ore.—A Houston, Texas man has been indicted for his leadership role in a conspiracy to traffic large quantities of marijuana illegally grown in Oregon for redistribution and sale in other states.
Fayao “Paul” Rong, 51, has been charged with conspiring to manufacture and possess with intent to distribute marijuana.
According to court documents, beginning at an unknown time and continuing until early September 2021, Rong conspired with others to illegally manufacture and possess with intent to distribute thousands of marijuana plants. As part of the conspiracy, Rong purchased numerous residential houses in Oregon using several different identities and converted them for use as indoor marijuana grows. Rong’s organization grew, harvested, and transported the marijuana to states where the possession and use of marijuana remains illegal. Investigators believe that, in a 12-month period beginning August 2020, Rong trafficked more than $13.2 million dollars in black market marijuana.
On September 8 and 9, 2021, a coordinated law enforcement operation led by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Oregon State Police (OSP) Northwest Region Marijuana Team targeted Rong’s organization. Federal, state, and local law enforcement partners executed search warrants on 25 Oregon residences and Rong’s Houston home. During the investigation and ensuing search warrants, investigators seized nearly 33,000 marijuana plants, 1,800 pounds of packaged marijuana, 23 firearms, nine vehicles, $20,000 in money orders, and more than $591,000 in cash. In the weeks following the operation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon filed an action in federal court seeking to forfeit 16 properties used for the illegal manufacturing of marijuana. Together, the properties are worth approximately $6.5 million.
The Rong organization takedown followed a 14-month investigation by OSP initiated after the agency learned of excessive electricity use at the various properties, which, in several instances, resulted in transformer explosions. Multiple citizen complaints corroborated law enforcement’s belief that Rong was leading a large black market marijuana operation. With the assistance of the Columbia and Polk County Sheriff’s Offices, OSP found associated marijuana grows in Clatsop, Columbia, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, and Polk Counties.
Rong was arrested today by DEA agents in Houston and made his initial appearance in federal court before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Southern District of Texas. He was released on conditions pending his first appearance in the District of Oregon.
If convicted, Rong faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with a ten-year mandatory minimum, a $10 million fine, and five years’ supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.
This case was investigated by the DEA, OSP, and U.S. Marshals Service with assistance from the FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; Oregon Department of Justice; Portland Police Bureau; the Yamhill, Clatsop, Marion, Multnomah, Columbia, and Polk County Sheriff’s Offices; Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team; and Linn Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
This prosecution is the result of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the U.S. by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.