Crime

By the letter of the law: Why USPS is involved in raid of Oakland mayor’s home

The mystery surrounding the raid at Oakland, California, Mayor Sheng Thao’s home has continued to grow, including the role the U.S. Postal Inspection Service had in it. While the Postal Inspection Service has remained quiet on why it carried out the raid in concert with the FBI, others close to the investigation are speaking up. […]

The mystery surrounding the raid at Oakland, California, Mayor Sheng Thao’s home has continued to grow, including the role the U.S. Postal Inspection Service had in it.

While the Postal Inspection Service has remained quiet on why it carried out the raid in concert with the FBI, others close to the investigation are speaking up.

The United States Postal Service’s inspection division investigates crimes using the nation’s mail system. The postal inspectors are federal law enforcement officers who carry firearms, make arrests, executive federal search warrants, and serve subpoenas. There are more than 1,200 inspectors that are tasked with enforcing 200 federal laws involving crimes in connection with the country’s postal system.


Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao becomes emotional while speaking to the media during a press conference on Monday, June 24, 2024, at Oakland City Hall in Oakland, California. Monday’s statement was the first by Thao after federal authorities raided her home last week. (AP)

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In Thao’s case, the USPS is purportedly owed tens of thousands of dollars after delivering campaign mailers that aimed to benefit Thao when she was running for mayor in 2022.

Samari Johnson, owner of Butterfly Direct Marketing, a direct mailing agency in Oakland, said the company received an order to print 170,000 attack mailers targeting Thao’s mayoral rivals Ignacio De La Fuente and Loren Taylor.

Johnson told CBS News Bay Area that longtime customer Mario Juarez put in the order a few weeks before the November general election.

Johnson said Juarez gave him $31,200 for the order and also gave him three checks to give to the USPS.

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After the mailers went out, Johnson said all of the checks, totaling $53,000, bounced.

Since then, with interest, he has been saddled with a $60,000 bill from the USPS.

“It’s been very heartbreaking, very disturbing, very emotional,” Johnson said. “The USPS put a postal stop on my business direct mail permit.”

He said his permit remains suspended.

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The fine print on the mailers said they were funded by Juarez and California Forward Now, his independent expenditure account. A closer look into who the donors were behind the account showed Juarez failed to file any paperwork to identify the donors, a violation of campaign finance laws.

Renia Webb, Thao’s former chief of staff who worked on her mayoral campaign, told CBS News that Andrew Duong, whose family owns California Waste Solutions, a recycling company that has a lucrative contract with the city, paid Juarez to go after Thao’s rivals.

“The post office is involved with this investigation because it was mail fraud with them using the funding to get those flyers sent out,” Webb told the television station.

Webb added that she had direct knowledge of one meeting between Thao, Duong, and Juarez.

“Andy was like, ‘Yeah, I need to talk to you about something,’” Webb said. “And Mario was like, ‘Yeah, I need some more money.’ That was his exact words. And he and Sheng and Mario went off to the corner right outside of Seabreeze where the Jack London (cabin) is. And they stood right there and talked maybe for about 15 minutes. I know that they’re not supposed to be doing that. During campaigns, the campaign and that I.E. account are never supposed to work together. They’re supposed to be two separate total entities.”

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FBI agents raid a home on Maiden Lane where Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao allegedly lives on Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Oakland, California. (Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

The Washington Examiner has not independently verified the claims that the USPS participated in the raids due to the mailers.

In addition to raiding Thao’s home, the FBI and USPS secured warrants to search the homes of Duong and his father, David, the president of California Waste Solutions. Multiple members of the Duong family led a third raid at offices shared by the company and the Vietnamese American Business Association.

The FBI and USPS have remained quiet on the reason for the raids, but there have been allegations that the Duongs have injected themselves into city, state, and national politics for quite some time and have tried to buy influence and power.

Earlier this week, Thao’s newly hired attorney resigned after the mayor held a press conference declaring her innocence without informing him. Tony Brass was retained as Thao’s counsel after her home was raided.

During that news conference, Thao implied, without providing any evidence, that the raid was connected to a recall effort against her. She also said “radical right-wing forces” and a “handful of billionaires” from the San Francisco Bay area and Piedmont, a small city in Alameda County, were “hell-bent” on removing her from office.

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Thao has vowed not to resign. She is also facing a recall in November.

If voters recall Thao, Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas would serve as interim mayor. The area’s election office would have 120 days to set up a special election to elect a new mayor.

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