The Criminal Division is responsible for prosecuting violations of federal criminal laws. The division includes prosecutors in Cedar Rapids and Sioux City. The Assistant United States Attorneys who make up the division bring a wealth of experience to the task. They work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. They are responsible for all phases of the criminal cases presented to them by these investigators. They determine, with the guidance of the Criminal Chief, whether there is enough evidence to prosecute and to present proposed charges to the Grand Jury. The division pursues a variety of federal crimes, including: Drugs, under both the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) and High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) programs; White Collar; Anti-Terrorism; Computer/Internet Crime; and Immigration offenses.
The Criminal Division also includes a Monetary Penalties Unit (MPU), which is comprised of ; a Financial Litigation Unit (FLU), which is responsible for collecting debts owed to the United States; and an Asset Forfeiture Unit which recovers proceeds gained from illegal activity.
The OCDETF program was initiated in October of 1982 and authorized by Congress in December of that year. Its purpose is to identify, target, dismantle and prosecute the most significant and violent drug trafficking organizations within each district. It accomplishes this by working fully and effectively with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Information is coordinated and shared between various agencies which allows them to target criminal drug trafficking organizations with multiple offenders spread over large geographic areas. In an OCDETF investigation, the goal is to dismantle the entire organization from the street level distribution through the importer or manufacturer.
The U.S. Attorney's Office pursues a large number of these high level prosecutions each year. In FY 2001 and FY 2002 the Northern District of Iowa ranked third out of 15 federal judicial districts in the West Central Region with 146 and 114 defendants convicted, respectively.
In December of 1996, the Office of National Drug Control Policy designated counties in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota as the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). On February 1, 1999, North Dakota was added.
The mission of HIDTA is to reduce and disrupt the importation, distribution, and clandestine manufacturing of methamphetamine in the six-state region and other parts of the United States, thereby reducing the impact of illegal drugs and the related criminal activity. The headquarters is in Kansas City, Missouri, and is part of the national HIDTA network under the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).
Unfortunately, Iowa has seen an explosion of methamphetamine in the last six years. This is due to a number of factors; Iowa's central location, an interstate highway system that is "the Cross Roads" of the United States, and a large undocumented foreign national workforce that makes it easy for traffickers to bring methamphetamine into the state. While this accounts for the multi-pound seizures that have become commonplace, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that importation only accounts for 80% of the meth in Iowa. The other 20% in Iowa is "homegrown," manufactured in local small "quick-cook" labs. There were 1009 labs discovered in 2002. The cost of clean-up for methamphetamine labs runs between $3,000 and $15,000 each.
One of the main ingredients in the chemical process that is used to make methamphetamine is in abundant supply in Iowa due to our prominence as a leading agricultural state. Anhydrous ammonia is used to impart nitrogen into the soil which acts as a fertilizer. It is also a precursor chemical used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. It causes a chemical reaction that changes a harmless cold medication, sudafed, into meth. It is estimated that there are 80,000 anhydrous tanks spread out across Iowa in fields and in farmer's co-ops. Efforts are underway to lock all of these tanks, but the cost is prohibitive. Unfortunately, even if authorities could lock each one, there is no lock that is indestructible. In some cases, traffickers have even stolen the whole tank to get a gallon of anhydrous.
Along with Iowa's designation as a HIDTA location came funds to have three Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys. They are hired by the Iowa Attorney General and funded by the federal HIDTA program. They are fully dedicated to prosecuting methamphetamine traffickers.
The office also participates in a concerted strategy to address the methamphetamine problem by participating in a Demand Reduction Sub-Committee comprised of federal, state and local agencies as well as educators and prevention specialists. The committee has produced educational videos, pamphlets, posters and an interactive CD-ROM for third and fourth graders, has sponsored a toll-free number where people can call in for assistance, and maintains a website.
Our office prosecutes a wide range of so called "White Collar"cases, including health care fraud, bankruptcy fraud, public corruption, financial institution fraud, environmental cases under the Clean Water Act and other federal statutes. The Assistants who prosecute those cases work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspectors, Internal Revenue Services, Environmental Protect Agency, and other federal, state and local agencies to ensure that these offenses are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
After the events of September 11, 2001, Attorney General Ashcroft directed the offices of the United States Attorneys to form Anti-Terrorism Task Forces. These task forces coordinate anti-terrorism investigations and prosecutions and the dissemination of information throughout the country. Their mission is to provide an operational foundation for a concerted effort against terrorism.
The Anti-Terrorism Coordinator for the Northern District of Iowa works with members of several federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies on matters involving terrorism or potential terrorism actions and training to identify, prevent, and respond to potential terrorism actions. If you have any information which you think may relate to terrorist activities, please call the U.S. Attorney's Office at 319-363-0091. Although we are not an investigative agency, we will ensure that such reports are passed on to the task force or other appropriate agencies. You may also go online at https://tips.fbi.gov
The investigation and prosecution of those responsible for identity theft, the sexual exploitation of children via the Internet, and child pornography (frequently involving computers) are high priority in this District's computer crime enforcement efforts. The United States Attorney's Office has and will continue to aggressively pursue those using the Internet to sexually coerce or entice children and/or possess, manufacture and distribute child pornography. For information to assist you in making your child's use of the Internet safer, visit the following link.
The Financial Litigation Unit has the primary responsibility for collecting debts, fines, forfeitures, restitution awards and special assessments. Some of these debts include:
- Fines, special assessments, costs and penalties owed by criminal defendants
- Defaults on government loans, such as education and Small Business Administration
- Debts owed to the United States by debtors in bankruptcy
- Money owed to the United States as a result of judgments in civil fraud cases
- Interest, costs and surcharges, when appropriate
The FLU works closely with the Criminal, ACE and Asset Forfeiture Sections to accomplish its mission. They also cooperate with the Court Clerk's Office and the United States Probation Office to assist in its collection of debts owed to the federal government.
The Asset Forfeiture Unit is responsible for the prosecution of all civil and criminal forfeiture cases. It is one of the most effective tools in dismantling criminal networks and attacking drug traffickers by taking away the very reason they exist - money. The Asset Forfeiture Attorney is a key member of the prosecution team and gets involved early in the investigation stage. By going after a criminal's ill-gotten gains with court-ordered forfeiture, the profits are taken out of crime.
Money taken in asset forfeiture cases is shared back with state and local investigators who participate in the criminal investigation. These law enforcement units are able to use the money to further other criminal investigations through the purchase of additional equipment, training and manpower that their normal budgets would not ordinarily allow. This unit has distributed several million dollars in forfeited money back to state and local law enforcement, providing additional resources that tax dollars could not provide. Asset Forfeiture also benefits the victims of crime by taking the seized assets and distributing them for the benefit of those who have been victimized.