The United States Attorney for Southern District of Florida is the chief law enforcement officer in the District. The USAO is organized as follows: Executive Division, Administrative Division, Appellate Division, Civil Division, Asset Forfeiture Division, Criminal Division (consisting of the Economic & Environmental Crimes Section, Major Crimes Section, Narcotics Section, Special Prosecutions Section, and the Public Integrity, National Security and Civil Rights Section). In addition to the Miami office, there are staffed branch offices in Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Ft. Pierce, and an unstaffed office in Key West. A general description of the Divisions follows:
The Executive Division of the United States Attorney’s Office comprises the senior management team, the Training Unit, and the Victim-Witness Assistance Unit. The senior management team includes the United States Attorney, the First Assistant United States Attorney, the Executive Assistant United States Attorney, the Counselor to the United States Attorney, and the Special Counsel to the United States Attorney. Working closely with the leaders of the Administrative, Appellate, Asset Forfeiture, Civil, and Criminal Divisions, the senior management team oversees and supports the litigation, operations, and administration of the entire District.
The Training Unit within the Executive Division provides professional development opportunities for employees of the United States Attorney’s Office. To carry out its mission, the Training Unit sponsors frequent in-house training events that educate AUSAs on a wide variety of substantive and procedural legal issues and provide AUSAs with practical advice on the application of the law to their cases. In addition, the Training Unit sponsors in-house training events for support staff on issues that specifically relate to their duties; ensures employee compliance with mandatory Department of Justice training directives; coordinates and facilitates employee attendance at outside training events, including courses offered by the Department of Justice National Advocacy Center; and provides in-house reference banks and resource materials for both attorneys and support staff.
The Victim Witness Assistance Unit represents the interests of the government and of the victims and witnesses of crime. The United States Attorney's Office provides support to victims and witnesses throughout the prosecution of a criminal matter. Among other services, the Victim Witness Assistance Unit notifies victims of case events, directs them to the services they need to assist them in recovering, and assists victims and witnesses with travel accommodations. In addition, the Victim Witness Assistance Unit helps victims and witnesses understand the criminal justice process.
The mission of the Administrative Division is to provide consistent and effective administrative services and support to the employees and programs of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida.
The Administrative Division is responsible for planning and executing a comprehensive range of administrative services that support the mission of the United States Attorney's Office. The Division is managed by the Administrative Officer, who is the principal advisor to the United States Attorney and the District on administrative matters. The Administrative Officer provides guidance on the management and use of the District's financial, human, and physical resources, and on administrative policies, procedures, information and practices. Administrative programs include: physical and personnel security; human resources management; financial management; acquisitions; space management; systems and information management; automated litigation support; case management and docketing; telecommunication services; procurement; property management; and support services, including mail, supplies, and records management.
The Fiscal Section is responsible for the formulation, execution, and monitoring of the District's financial resources. Responsibilities include the prompt payment of vendor invoices, employee travel program and reimbursement, and management of payroll/human resource allocations.
The Human Resources Section provides management advisory, recruitment, staffing, position classification, employee relations, performance management, awards program, personnel recordkeeping, benefits, and personnel processing services. The Section is also responsible for pay administration and processing time and attendance records.
The Information Technology Section is responsible for all automated systems. The five primary program areas are: office automation; electronic records management; case management; litigation support; and telecommunications. The office automation staff maintain the office network, provide support to the end users, manage the eVoIP telephone system, video conferencing and connectivity maintenance. They are also responsible for electronic records management. The case management staff is responsible for the docketing and reporting of all cases in the District. The litigation support staff is responsible for producing courtroom presentations, audio-visual courtroom setups and assisting the professional staff with trial preparation.
Administrative Support Services
The Administrative Support Services Section is separated into three Units: Support Services, Acquisitions, and Property; Communications; and Facilities Management. The Section is responsible for all acquisitions related to legal services, as well as procurement of supplies, furniture, and office equipment; logistical operations, including communication services, conference setups, internal physical moves, mail and courier services; records and files management; and government vehicles and property management. They also develop and maintain service contracts for office equipment, coordinate space and facility needs of the District’s offices, two satellite offices and unstaffed trial preparation space, and provide other support that affects the everyday operation of the Office.
The Security Section is responsible for the safety and security of all employees. The staff manages the physical security needs of all facilities, which include oversight of the District’s Special Security Officers and the security identification and access system. Additionally, they ensure the security of office personnel and the safety of classified information. The Security staff is also responsible for the District’s Emergency Plans and safety program, such as CPR training, OSHA compliance and safety awareness.
The Criminal Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida is represented in all four staffed offices in the District. It is headed by the Chief of the Criminal Division, who is based in the District’s main office in Miami. In Miami, Criminal Division activities also are overseen by the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. The Central Region (Fort Lauderdale branch office) and the Northern Region (West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce branch offices) each have a Managing Assistant United States Attorney (MAUSA) responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Criminal Division within their particular region. The MAUSAs report to the Chief of the Criminal Division in Miami.
In the Miami office, the Criminal Division is divided into five sections: Economic and Environmental Crimes; Major Crimes; Narcotics; Public Integrity National Security & Civil Rights; and Special Prosecutions. Each section is headed by a Chief and at least one Deputy Chief. There are approximately 100 AUSAs working within the Criminal Division in Miami.
In the Central Region, the Criminal Division is divided into three sections: Economic Crimes; Narcotics & Major Crimes; and Organized Crime & Special Prosecutions North. Each section is headed by a Section Chief, and there are more than 30 AUSAs working within the Criminal Division in the Central Region.
In the Northern Region,the Criminal Division is divided into three sections: Criminal I (based in West Palm Beach); Criminal II (based in West Palm Beach); and Criminal III (based in Fort Pierce). Each section is headed by a Section Chief, and there are approximately 30 AUSAs working within the Criminal Division in the Northern Region.
Economic & Environmental Crimes Section
The Economic and Environmental Crimes Section investigates and prosecutes a wide variety of significant white collar and environmental crimes. The Section is divided into three units: the General Frauds Unit; the Health Care Fraud Unit; and the Environmental Crimes Unit.
General Frauds Unit
The General Frauds Unit focuses on the broadest range of the financial crimes spectrum, including complex investment and securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, boiler room operations and business opportunity scams, bank fraud, corporate fraud, mortgage fraud, computer fraud, tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act matters, and other large scale mail and wire frauds. In response to a crises arising in the specific area of mortgage fraud, in 2008 the District created a Mortgage Fraud Strike Force, which operates within the General Fraud Unit. Since its inception, the Mortgage Fraud Strike Force has led the nation in mortgage fraud prosecutions. In December 2010, the District announced the formation of a Securities and Investment Fraud Strike Force as part of a broader initiative to combat investment fraud schemes in South Florida.
Health Care Fraud Unit
The Health Care Fraud Unit specializes in the detection, investigation and prosecution of health care fraud schemes targeting the Medicare program and private insurance carriers. The Health Care Fraud Unit’s goal is to rapidly respond to the constantly-evolving Medicare fraud schemes in Miami-Dade County, oftentimes involving false claims for durable medical equipment, HIV and cancer “infusion” medications, home health services, physical therapy/occupational therapy, and mental health services. In response to South Florida’s health care fraud epidemic, the District created the first in the nation Health Care Fraud Strike Force in 2007. The District also has the only stand-alone Health Care Fraud Facility in the nation, where agents, investigators, nurse practitioners, and AUSAs work jointly with CMS to detect health care fraud in an almost real-time basis. The Southern District of Florida has consistently led the nation in the prosecution of health care fraud.
Environmental Crimes Unit
The Southern District of Florida has the only Environmental Crimes Unit outside of Main Justice. This Unit investigates and prosecutes criminal violations of environmental and wildlife protection laws. The Unit prosecutes not only traditional polluters who violate standards with respect to the air, land, and waters, but also non-traditional offenses such as the dumping of solid and plastic wastes by the maritime industry, and the illegal trafficking in contaminated foods and pharmaceuticals. The Unit further provides law enforcement support in the extensive National Parklands and Wildlife Refuges within the District. A significant portion of resources is directed to enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, Lacey Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act, for violations ranging from habitat destruction to the illicit international trade in threatened and endangered species. Many of the Unit’s cases are pursued jointly with foreign enforcement authorities, and state and local agencies.
Major Crimes Section
The Major Crimes Section is responsible for prosecuting reactive federal crimes that occur in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, as well as conducting investigations into a variety of federal crimes involving: (1) government operations and property, including threats to the President of the United States, attacks on Federal officers, theft of government property, counterfeiting, postal offenses, social security fraud, and forged and stolen Treasury checks; (2) crimes related to channels of interstate commerce, including alien smuggling, aircraft hijacking, interference with flight crew, transportation of stolen property, bulk cash smuggling, and trafficking in stolen and counterfeit securities and credit cards; (3) legal process crimes, including obstruction of justice, false statements to federal agents, and bond jumping; (4) violent crimes, including kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery under the Hobbs Act, bank robbery, carjacking, and illegal possession of firearms; (5) crimes against women, children and families, including child pornography, and rape occurring on the high seas; (6) immigration fraud offenses; (7) narcotics trafficking violations, including airport and seaport smuggling, marijuana grow houses and undercover street sales of narcotics; and (8) other crimes that take place in areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction, such as national parks and other federal lands and buildings.
The Section is divided into four Units, each led by a Deputy Chief. Although every AUSA in the Section handles a variety of reactive cases and investigations, each of the Deputy Chiefs has primary responsibility for intake and coordination with various state, local and federal investigative agencies assigned to task forces targeting cargo theft, maritime crimes, Project Safe Neighborhood, identity theft and alien smuggling investigations. As the most trial-intensive Section of the USAO, prosecutors in the Section try between 5 and 10 trials on average each year. In addition to maintaining an active trial calendar, prosecutors in the Major Crimes Section lead proactive investigations into federal crimes.
The Narcotics Section consistently leads the nation in the prosecution of high level narcotics traffickers. Staffed with highly experienced and skilled Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) prosecutors, this Section has distinguished itself by prosecuting and convicting the most notorious narco-traffickers in the world. From the prosecution and conviction of the leaders of the infamous Medellin, Cali, and Norte Valle cartels, to the extradition and dismantling of the high ranking commanders of the Colombian paramilitary and guerilla groups, this Section has been and continues to be relentless in its pursuit of international drug kingpins and their narco-trafficking and money laundering organizations. The Section continually identifies and engages emerging narco-trafficking and narco-terrorism threats throughout the world. Recently, the Southern District of Florida became the first district in the nation to form a specialized unit within the Narcotics Section dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of the present day narco-trafficking threat in Central and South America: “Bandas Criminales,” also known as “BACRIMS.” As well, the District was the first to focus on the Caribbean Basin region as an emerging trans-shipment point for U.S.-bound narcotics from South America. In a proactive strategy to shut down this emerging trafficking route, the USAO has recently launched its Caribbean Basin Initiative, dedicating resources to combat this emerging problem.
The Narcotics Section’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force prosecutors are co-located with Task Force agents from the ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE, and local law enforcement agencies from Miami-Dade and Broward Counties. In addition to prosecuting international narco-traffickers and money launderers, HIDTA prosecutors are on the front lines prosecuting domestic narcotics street gangs and organizations that affect our local community. These U.S.-based prosecutions invariably result in the conviction of violent felons who have possessed and used weapons in an attempt to protect and further their drug trafficking enterprises.
Public Integrity, National Security & Civil Rights Section
The Public Integrity National Security and Civil Rights Section investigates and prosecutes cases in three sensitive areas: (1) corruption matters involving federal, state, and local officials, elected and non-elected; (2) counter-terrorism cases with a nationwide impact. In particular, terrorism investigations are worked jointly with the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), an FBI-led task force in South Florida. Among the Section’s successes are U.S. v. Padilla and the Liberty City Six case; and (3) cases involving excessive force, voting rights, and other civil rights violations.
Special Prosecutions Section
The Special Prosecutions Section is primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting violent crimes involving death or serious bodily injury, human trafficking, and child exploitation matters. AUSAs in the Section typically investigate matters involving gang members, threats to commit serious bodily injury or death, serial armed robberies, kidnappings, home invasions, and other death penalty eligible offenses. AUSAs also work on child exploitation cases involving international sex tourism, internet enticement of children, and production of child pornography. In addition, AUSAs work on domestic and international human trafficking cases. The Section handles both significant reactive cases and long-term historical and proactive investigations. The Section is also responsible for overseeing the District’s Project Safe Childhood, Project Safe Neighborhood, and Human Trafficking Programs. In this capacity, AUSAs work with federal and local law enforcement officers to combat child exploitation, human trafficking, and violent crimes. AUSAs also participate in community outreach programs and presentations to raise public awareness in these subject areas.
The Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida represents the United States in a broad array of defensive and affirmative civil lawsuits arising primarily in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. AUSAs in the Civil Division also practice before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and Florida state courts. The Civil Division consists of the General Litigation, Health Care Fraud/Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE), and Financial Litigation (FLU) Units.
The majority of the Civil Division’s AUSAs handle general civil litigation. These AUSAs principally defend the United States in Title VII cases alleging discrimination in hiring and employment practices by agencies of the United States and defend the United States in tort actions brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, such as medical malpractice, premises liability and automobile accidents. General Ligation AUSAs are also responsible for defending cases in a wide array of other subject areas, including the Freedom of Information Act, the Privacy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, immigration, Constitutional torts, Social Security, subpoena enforcement, constitutional law, prisoners’ rights, and condemnation.
Health Care Fraud/Affirmative Civil Enforcement (ACE) Unit
The Health Care Fraud/ACE Unit investigates and litigates civil False Claims Act cases involving fraud on the United States and civil penalty actions involving a wide variety of federal programs. In many instances, AUSAs in the Health Care Fraud/ACE Unit use the federal Fraud Injunction Act to stop on-going mail, wire, bank or health care fraud and freeze assets obtained through fraudulent activity. Many of the cases handled by AUSAs in the Section were initiated by whistleblowers, who filed their complaints under seal. The government then investigates the allegations, and can elect to pursue the action. Recently, the USAO settled a pharmaceutical fraud case, which began as a whistleblower action, for over $126 million. In addition to pharmaceutical fraud, AUSAs in this Section investigate and prosecute kickback cases, as well as fraud cases involving medical quality of care issues and durable medical equipment.
AUSAs in the Civil Division also pursue civil rights actions under federal statutes such as the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Financial Litigation Unit (FLU)
The primary function of the Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) is to litigate and enforce the collection of criminal debts owed to the United States and third parties, including criminal restitution, fines, and penalties. FLU AUSAs also enforce civil debts owed to the United States, such as student loans. The AUSAs and support staff in FLU aggressively pursue all available collection avenues in order to effectively enforce criminal and civil judgments.
Asset Forfeiture Division
The Asset Forfeiture Division was established in 1993 as an independent Division, overseeing all criminal and civil forfeiture litigation in the Southern District of Florida. The mission of the Asset Forfeiture Division is to promote, facilitate, and enforce compliance with the laws of the United States using criminal and civil forfeiture to disrupt and deter criminal activity, to dismantle criminal enterprises, and to separate criminals and their associates from the profits of their illegal activities.
AUSAs assigned to the Asset Forfeiture Division handle all civil forfeiture matters in the District; handle and assist Criminal Division AUSAs with forfeiture-related issues in criminal prosecutions, and have overall responsibility for all issues involving asset forfeiture, including investigations, seizures, and final disposition of assets. The District emphasizes criminal forfeiture and is consistently among the top districts nationwide in judicial forfeiture recoveries and Asset Forfeiture Fund deposits. Forfeited funds are used, as permitted by federal law, to support federal, state and local law enforcement activities and, in appropriate cases, to provide full or partial restoration to victims of criminal activity. In addition to forfeiting the proceeds and instrumentalities of more routine crimes (like drug trafficking, healthcare and mortgage fraud, Ponzi schemes, and environmental crimes), the District has forfeited bank accounts in Europe, a freighter off the coast of Greece, pre-Colombian artifacts, and millions of dollars in proceeds of foreign public corruption, among others.
The Appellate Division represents the USAO in the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The Division handles all appeals to the Eleventh Circuit from both the civil and criminal cases prosecuted by the Office. The 18-member Division is one of the largest and busiest in the Department of Justice. By having all criminal and civil appeals handled by appellate specialists, the Appellate Division also is a relatively unique institution among United States Attorney’s Offices. Because of the Division’s long and successful history, other United States Attorney’s Offices seeking to develop a dedicated appellate section have looked to our Division as a model.
Appellate litigation typically includes the preparation of briefs and the presentation of oral arguments before the Court of Appeals. In addition to defending the criminal convictions and civil judgments obtained by the Office, the Appellate Division also brings affirmative appeals to the Eleventh Circuit from rulings adverse to the United States, after consultation with the Solicitor General’s Office and Criminal or Civil Division of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
Members of the Appellate Division also give advice and consult on legal matters with the United States Attorney and other attorneys in the Office. At least two appellate attorneys are assigned as liaisons to each branch office and each trial section in the Miami Office.