Transformer Explosions Caused by “Excessive” Electricity Usage Tipped Off Oregon Police to Multistate Cannabis Ring

Law enforcement raided 25 Oregon residences in September.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for Oregon announced Friday the indictment of Fayao “Paul” Rong, a 51-year-old Houston man, on two counts of conspiracy to manufacture and possess cannabis with intent to distribute.

What tipped off Oregon State Police? The enormous amount of electricity used by Rong’s indoor cannabis grows.

“The Rong organization takedown followed a 14-month investigation by [Oregon State Police] initiated after the agency learned of excessive electricity use at the various properties, which, in several instances, resulted in transformer explosions,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Investigators believe that, in a 12-month period beginning August 2020, Rong trafficked more than $13.2 million in black market marijuana.”

Federal prosecutors allege Rong purchased “numerous” houses in Oregon, which he converted into indoor cannabis grow operations, and led an organization that grew, harvested and transported cannabis to states where its possession is not legal. (Prosecutors did not specify which states, or how many, they believe Rong shipped the cannabis to.)

During a raid in September led by Oregon State Police’s Northwest Region Marijuana Team and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, law enforcement executed search warrants on 25 Oregon residences, as well as Rong’s home in Houston. During the investigation, prosecutors allege, they seized more than 33,000 plants, 1,800 pounds of packaged cannabis and nearly $600,000 in cash.

Federal prosecutors in Oregon have asked the court to seize 16 properties worth approximately $6.5 million where they believe drug ring grew cannabis.

Law enforcement arrested Rong in Houston. Following his Feb. 18 appearance in Texas federal court, the judge ordered Rong released from custody pending his appearance in Oregon District Court. He faces life in prison if convicted.

More than a dozen law enforcement agencies—local, state and federal—assisted: the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon Department of Justice, the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team, sheriff’s offices in Multnomah, Linn, Polk, Marion, Clatsop and Yamhill counties, as well as the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations unit.