Justice News

Remarks by Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer at Violent Crime Program Press Roundtable
Washington, DC
United States
Monday, July 12, 2010

First, thank you all for coming. It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these.

I wanted to take the opportunity today to tell you about some changes we anticipate making in the Criminal Division, to build on our already successful efforts to prosecute organized criminal groups.

In that regard, I think it is important to note the string of recent success our Gang Unit has had in prosecuting some of the most dangerous and violent gang offenders in this country.

In Charlotte, we’ve convicted numerous MS-13 leaders and associates, including Alejandro Enrique Ramirez Umana who will be sentenced at the end of this month. In April, a federal jury voted unanimously to impose the death penalty against Umana after they convicted him of murder and related charges, including weapons, extortion and witness tampering and intimidation charges.

In addition, 11 people charged in the original 26-person indictment have now been sentenced, many to significant prison terms – terms like 240 months, 222 months and 169 months.

In Texas, Maryland and Indiana, we’re fighting the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation. Most recently, on June 29, we announced racketeering conspiracy charges against six alleged Almighty Latin King and Queen members in Indiana.

The week before, we charged 26 alleged Bloods gang members and associates in Tennessee with crimes related to their alleged gang activity.

These are just a few recent examples.

And let me remind you, this has all been accomplished by a small group of only 13 attorneys who, along with their AUSA counterparts, have really struck a blow against gang operations in American communities.

The partnerships this unit has established with U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country, and the commitment these offices have made, have produced these tangible results.

Of course, while we’re heartened to see an overall drop in violent crime, we know gang violence and associated crimes persist in far too many communities.

To a citizen who lives in fear, the worst gang in America is one in their neighborhood – the one trying to recruit their child at school, the one selling drugs on their block, the one whose stray bullet ended the life of their neighbor’s child.

That’s why the Gang Unit targets high-impact gang cases involving regional, national or international gang threats. We want to have maximum impact, both in creating safer communities and deterring future criminal activity by disrupting significant organized criminal groups’ operations.

To further that goal, I’ve recently completed a comprehensive review of the Criminal Division’s efforts on organized crime, violent crime and gangs.

But before we get into it, there’s one more thing I’d like to tell you about today. There is simply no way to talk about the department’s legendary efforts to fight organized crime without talking about one of the effort’s most revered forefathers - Jack Keeney.

Some people thought the biggest career move announced last week involved LeBron James, but for the people of the Justice Department, the biggest career move announced last week involved a true Hall of Famer - Mr. Keeney

Since 1951 Mr. Keeney has devoted his life to the pursuit of justice - in particular organized crime - and last week, he told me that he has decided to retire.

A career prosecutor in every sense of the words and meaning, Mr. Keeney made sure that his last accomplishment at the department was to ensure the continued success of the organized crime program he helped to build.

Though the section’s name has changed and prosecutors have come and gone throughout the decades, two things have remained - the department’s singular mission to eradicate organized crime in the United States, and Mr. Keeney.

His devotion to this department and to mentoring thousands of young prosecutors is eclipsed only by the success his efforts have achieved and for the Fighting Irish.

The world has all kinds of celebrities, but in these hallowed halls of justice, there are legal giants known primarily to the men and women who devote their lives and their careers to the rule of law and among that elite group, Mr. Keeney is truly a legend who will be missed.

Now, as I said earlier, the other group we have that fights organized criminal groups - the Gang Unit - has also been very successful -- I’ve just listed only a few of that Unit’s recent litigation successes. But we need to do more – not only investigating and prosecuting gangs, but also using our expertise to help provide support to prosecutors in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the nation.

The Organized Crime and Racketeering Section, or OCRS, has a long and storied history of successfully combating organized crime, both in litigating its own cases and through its work with the Organized Crime Strike Force Units in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. More recently, OCRS has been focusing its efforts on combating international organized crime groups that threaten our safety and security. I want us to ramp up our efforts in this area as well.

Based on my review, I have recommended to the Attorney General that our already outstanding efforts in these areas would be enhanced by a merger of OCRS and the Gang Unit into one section - the Organized Crime and Gang Section - which will allow us to use our resources much more efficiently and effectively to combat gangs and other organized crime groups.

The Attorney General has indicated his support for this change, and we have begun discussions with members of Congress and within the executive branch to formalize these recommendations.

While the changes I propose require a few further steps within the executive branch and with Congress, initial discussions with both have been positive, and I am optimistic that we will move forward with this reorganization of some of the Department’s finest prosecutors and staff. I am preparing to move forward on these changes, and I am excited to implement our new strategy.

Also as part of this merger, the National Gang Targeting, Enforcement and Coordination Center, or GangTECC, will be merged into the new Organized Crime and Gang Section.

The men and women at GangTECC have worked hard since the Center’s formation to coordinate major gang cases and identify emerging threats. The Center has also created a Most Wanted list, in conjunction with the U.S. Marshals Service, which highlighted 12 state and local gang fugitives wanted for gang crimes. To date, this list has resulted in 10 fugitives being arrested.

By combining GangTECC into the same section as the Gang Unit, with common supervisors and a common mission, we believe information sharing and coordination will be significantly enhanced. In addition, we are linking GangTECC up with the department’s Special Operations Division, which successfully coordinates multi-district operations targeting major drug-trafficking organizations. And we’re making additional related changes that will improve GangTECC’s access to information about gang cases being investigated by federal agents throughout the country.

These changes will greatly enhance GangTECC’s ability to identify connections between gang cases being investigated in different parts of the country; to help make sure evidence is shared to benefit all of those cases; and to coordinate takedowns of those cases where appropriate for maximum impact.

Bruce Ohr, currently the chief of OCRS, will serve as the chief of this new section. Doug Crow, currently a deputy in OCRS, will serve as the Principal Deputy for Policy and

Operations, while Jim Trusty, currently the Deputy Chief and Acting Chief in the Gang Unit, will serve as Principal Deputy for Litigation. Kevin Carwile, who used to head the Gang Unit, is moving over to lead our Capital Case Unit.

We’re also exploring creative ways to partner with our colleagues in the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to enhance the department’s efforts to balance smart, targeted enforcement against gangs and violent criminals with robust efforts at intervention and prevention to help deter and prevent violent crime and help our young people stay away from gangs and violence.

We’ve made a number of changes in the Criminal Division since I first arrived. In fact, this is the second major structural change I’ve made in the Division in the past 15 months, the first being the merger that resulted in the creation of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. All of the changes we’ve made are designed to make the most efficient and effective use of our limited resources, while enhancing our ability to bring criminals to justice.

The Criminal Division has a rich history, filled with legendary prosecutors and storied cases.

I and people in my front office have spent a great deal of time talking with staff and attorneys to learn what actions people felt could most benefit the Division and ensure its strong footing for years to come. I am pleased to say that I believe these changes and others like them give the Division a foundation that will allow us to meet the 21st century law enforcement challenges we face with the right mix of talent, intelligence, resources and most of all – determination.

With that, I welcome your questions.

Updated September 17, 2014