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Criminal Division

The Criminal Division is the largest division in the office. Assistant United States Attorneys investigate and prosecute cases arising from a vast array of criminal activity. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Criminal Division assumed new responsibilities in the fight against terrorism, using criminal law tools to detect, disrupt, and incapacitate terrorists and terrorist supporters. The Criminal Division is divided into four sections: Major Crimes; Narcotics and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF); Economic Crime; Asset Foreiture; with Criminal Appeals and the Victim-Witness program serving the division as a whole.

Major Crimes

The United States Attorney’s Office’s highest priority is to prevent, disrupt, and defeat international and domestic terrorist operations before they occur, within this district and elsewhere. Our other priorities include investigation and prosecution of the illegal export of military and dual-use technologies, violent street gangs/organized crime, sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, civil rights violations, armed career criminals, arson and explosives offenses, serial armed bank and commercial robberies, kidnapping offenses, illegal aliens previously convicted of aggravated felonies, possession of firearms by convicted felons, firearms trafficking and illegal possession of sawed-off shotguns and machine guns. The Assistant United States Attorneys in this section are involved in a wide variety of prosecutions and initiatives including the following:

National Security & Counter-Proliferation Matters
The district’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) focuses its efforts on preventing terrorism and prosecuting terrorism related crimes. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office and its law enforcement partners aggressively investigate and prosecute Export Control Act violations, including the illegal export of military and dual-use technologies. Recent prosecutions include:

Gang Cases & the Organized Crime Strike Force
Strike Force enforcement in the Northern District of Georgia is sometimes directed against traditional organized crime. In more recent years, however, most organized crime prosecutions have been brought against street gangs operating in the district. Gang crimes are prosecuted by attorneys in both the Major Crimes section and the Narcotics section, but are coordinated by the Major Crimes Section. Gang prosecutions have resulted in lengthy prison sentences for gang members of several different gangs, including MS-13, 18th Street and Sur-13.  Recent prosecutions include:

Human Trafficking
This office has a longstanding commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in human trafficking by enslaving individuals in forced employment or the illegal sex trade. To more effectively prosecute such crimes, the United States Attorney’s Office partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement, and many non-governmental organizations. This coalition of federal prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations not only endeavors to increase prosecutions of these crimes, but also to educate the public about these offenses so that victims may be identified more readily and assisted in rebuilding their lives.  In furtherance of these goals, in 2011 the U. S. Attorney’s office and other coalition members hosted the Human Trafficking Summit attended by over four hundred victims, service providers, law enforcement officers and community leaders.  Also in 2011, Atlanta was selected as one of only six cities nationwide to participate in the Federal Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams pilot program, which is designed to enhance outreach, coordination, and proactive case identification by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials involved in the investigation and prosecution of forced labor and sex trafficking crimes. The United States Attorney’s Office has aggressively sought to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Recent prosecutions include:

Civil Rights Violations

Civil Rights cases typically involve situations when a person in a position of authority in state, local, or federal government uses his office to deprive another individual of his civil rights. The U.S. Attorney's Office is also actively involved in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, where a citizen has been victimized because of his/her race, gender, religion, national orientation, or sexual orientation. Because many civil rights violations also involve public corruption, recent civil rights prosecutions are highlighted under Public Corruption below.

Sexual Exploitation of Children/Project Safe Childhood

In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse. In May 2011, Project Safe Childhood was expanded to encompass all federal crimes involving sexual exploitation of a minor, whether or not they involve the internet.  The expanded initiative encompasses the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, the extraterritorial exploitation of children, and the prosecution of unregistered sex offenders, among other crimes.  Led by the United States Attorney's Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. Recent prosecutions include:

Prosecutions of Violent Criminals

This initiative brings community leaders and law enforcement together to identify communities with gang and gun-related crime problems and to develop strategies to prevent such crimes and aggressively prosecute those who commit them.  The enforcement prong of the U.S. Attorney’s anti-violence strategy is designed to reduce violence by focusing law enforcement resources on the most dangerous individuals in the district's most violent communities, with a focus on violent repeat offenders, to permanently dismantle and disrupt violent organizations, and to stem the flow of firearms by investigating and prosecuting firearms traffickers. In conjunction with its law enforcement and community partners, the U.S. Attorney’s office has developed a prisoner reentry program designed to reduce the number of repeat offenders in the areas of Atlanta most plagued by violent crime.  To educate young people about the justice system and to foster a positive image of law enforcement, in 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s office hosted a Youth Justice Summit  that was attended by 120 students from at-risk neighborhoods.  The U.S. Attorney’s office will continue its crime-prevention efforts by hosting a series of outreach events, including forums with community advocacy organizations and other community stakeholders, to discuss community issues and crime reduction and prevention initiatives. 

Other Notable Cases:

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Narcotics and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) were established to target and dismantle the highest level drug trafficking organizations operating within the United States. OCDETF is comprised of Assistant United States Attorneys and a variety of federal investigative agents and deputized state and local officers, who work together using the most powerful and sophisticated investigative tools and techniques, including court-authorized wiretaps, to attack these organizations.  Atlanta’s OCDETF attorneys focus primarily on prosecuting international cartels that import illegal drugs from other countries and use Atlanta as a distribution and money-laundering hub for the eastern United States.  OCDETF prosecutions are designed to eliminate entire organizations, including the sources of supply and financial networks involved in high-level drug trafficking.  Investigations usually span many months and result in the arrest and indictment of many defendants.  Atlanta is the Core City for OCDETF’s Southeast Region, which includes Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, and Sally Quillian Yates serves as the Core City U.S. Attorney for this region.   

The Section also includes Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSAs), who are designated to work with the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA). This task force consists of federal and local drug agents who focus on identifying and arresting the most prolific regional drug traffickers operating in Barrow, Bartow, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Henry counties, which contain the highest concentration of large-scale drug traffickers in the district.  In one HIDTA investigation of an indoor marijuana “grow house” operation, agents seized 8,841 marijuana plants and 1,565 pounds of processed marijuana.  The marijuana had a street value of $3,514,000. 

Press release:  Twenty-one Defendants in Hydroponic Marijuana Growing Scheme Sentenced to Prison

In March 2007, members of the OCDETF law enforcement agencies began operating out of the “David G. Wilhelm Atlanta OCDETF Strike Force,” a special cooperative drug task force based in DeKalb County and named after the slain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Special Agent In Charge (ASAC).  The Strike Force is designed to investigate and prosecute the highest-level members of international drug cartels that have operations in metro Atlanta and throughout the United States. The Strike Force coordinates efforts with other OCDETF Strike Forces located throughout the country, as well as investigative agents operating throughout the world.

OCDETF attorneys also target significant local drug operations, including pain clinics that illegally distribute prescription drugs, particularly Oxycodone.  These “pill mills” are a new phenomenon in the district and have contributed to a recent spike in drug use, particularly by youth.  In addition to prosecutions of appropriate cases, the United States Attorney’s Office has worked with its law enforcement partners and medical organizations to raise awareness of the problem in the community. 

Prescription Drug Abuse

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Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription Drug Abuse