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Published on April 02, 2024
Oregon Marijuana Kingpin from Houston Sentenced, $6M in Properties Forfeited in Drug BustSource: Wikipedia/Blogtrepreneur, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A massive $6 million real estate forfeiture links to an Oregon-based, interstate marijuana ring, says the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon. Officials confirmed the seizure of 14 properties, all instrumental to the drug operation that sprawled across several counties. Alongside the real estate, cash amounting to $400,000 was willingly paid by another property owner to prevent forfeiture.

The properties, scattered across Clatsop, Columbia, Linn, Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties, were employed as illegal grow houses by a drug trafficking organization spearheaded by 53-year-old Fayao “Paul” Rong of Houston, Texas. Rong, after his pleading guilty to a conspiracy to manufacture marijuana charge, found himself sentenced on July 19, 2023, to 30 months in federal lockup, plus a five-year term of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office statement detailed.

The operation's unravelling was the result of an investigation initiated by the Oregon State Police (OSP) after excessive electricity use reports, which included several incidents of exploding transformers, triggered suspicion. The exhaustive, coordinated effort to dismantle Rong’s network included searches of 25 Oregon residences and Rong's own domicile in Houston, which culminated in the seizure of a stunning 33,000 marijuana plants and a significant cache of firearms, vehicles, and cash.

Appraising the diligence that went into quelling the operation, U.S. Attorney Natalie Wight stated, “This prosecution and years-long effort to forfeit properties used by the Rong organization to grow and process thousands of pounds of marijuana demonstrate the long reach of our commitment to holding drug traffickers accountable and mitigating the damage these criminal organizations inflict on neighborhoods and communities,” as reported by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

David F. Reames of the DEA highlighted that the aim of such drug traffickers is invariably the pursuit of profit through criminal activity. Oregon State Police Lt. Tyler Bechtel stressed the cooperative law enforcement approach towards protecting state interests and natural resources from the detrimental impacts of illegal marijuana cultivation.

Rong's operation had, within a year from August 2020, trafficked $13.2 million in black-market marijuana. This decisive clampdown on his activity sends a clear signal to similar operations veiling under twilight — the authorities are not idle, and the consequences of such undertakings are grave. Both the investigation and prosecution involved an extensive network of federal, state, and local agencies, including the DEA, OSP, and U.S. Marshals, along with support from the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, among others. This case stands testament to the strength of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force's strategic reach into the nucleus of criminal enterprises that seek to exploit American soil for illicit gain.

Forfeited assets' proceeds flow into the Justice Department’s Assets Forfeiture Fund, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office announcement, aiding in repairing the financial injuries of crime victims and supporting a swathe of law enforcement initiatives.