The section focuses on investigations and prosecutions of international and significant domestic narcotics trafficking and money laundering organizations, violent local criminal street gangs, and both traditional and emerging transnational organized criminal enterprises. Using the full panoply of federal drug trafficking, money laundering, other financial and tax, racketeering, and frauds laws, AUSAs in the section work on cases which are part of the OCDETF National Program and target the leaders and associates of the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, including the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (“CJNG”), and affiliated drug trafficking syndicates, as well as criminal networks which import heroin, fentanyl, and chemical precursors, often manufactured in Chinese clandestine laboratories, through the borders, ports, and mail systems. The section is at the national forefront of combating the opioids epidemic, working with law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute “dirty doctors,” pharmacies, and street-level and whole-sale distributors, as well as websites which facilitate the distribution of hydrocodone and oxycodone and other drugs, particularly where such distribution results in serious bodily harm or overdose death. In addition, AUSAs in the section have developed an expertise in investigating and prosecuting transnational organized criminal groups and domestic vendors who distribute narcotics and launder the proceeds of their criminal conduct through the dark web and the use of crypto-currency. The section seeks to dismantle entire drug trafficking organizations and transnational organized criminal enterprises including by attacking their ability to utilize financial systems and methods outside of such traditional systems like the “hawala” to transfer their ill-gotten gains. The section prosecutes sweeping international money laundering conspiracies and handles cases involving money laundering, Bank Secrecy Act, and other economic sanctions violations as well as the forfeiture of crime proceeds and assets. The section has prosecuted Consolidated Priority Organizational Targets (“CPOTs”) and various drug kingpins who have been extradited to the United States to face substantial prison sentences. The section is an active participant in the Department of Justice’s priority program of combating violent crime by aggressively using the Racketeer and Influence Corrupt Organization, drug trafficking, and money laundering statutes to prosecute the Mexican Mafia prison gang and its affiliated violent Hispanic street gangs which distribute narcotics in local communities and in the incarceration systems.
AUSAs in the section work with various federal and local law enforcement entities, including DEA, FBI, DHS, ATF, IRS, the Coast Guard, the United States Marshals, task forces such as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”), the California Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the Los Angeles Police Department and other local police departments, and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. In addition, the section also actively works with foreign prosecutors and law enforcement agency counterparts in order to investigate, prosecute, and extradite foreign nationals as well as United States citizens who commit crimes abroad. AUSAs in the section regular engage in community outreach as part of the office’s anti-drug and anti-gang efforts.
Carol A. Chen
Carol A. Chen began her career as an Assistant United States Attorney in September, 2005. She joined the Civil Division, where she brought affirmative cases and defended the United States and its employees in a variety of lawsuits primarily in the areas of Title VII, civil rights, and tort litigation, both at trial and before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Of the significant multiple civil trials that she had — and perhaps portending her current role — she is particularly proud of successfully defending several Drug Enforcement Administration agents in a civil rights, excessive force lawsuit which had been brought by a violent gang member through obtaining across-the-board defense verdicts in a hard-fought multi-week jury trial. In September, 2009, Ms. Chen joined the Criminal Division of the office. She joined the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, & Racketeering Section (“INMLRS”), which was then named the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Section (“OCDETF”), in June, 2011, and has remained a member of that section until the present, including as a Deputy Chief from September, 2015, until March, 2019. While a member of INMLRS, she was appointed Acting Deputy Chief and Acting Chief of the General Crimes section in 2015 and 2016, respectively; in this training section, she approved the indictments and oversaw the prosecution and trials of different types of cases including those involving basic drug trafficking, financial, firearms, and organized crime violations. Ms. Chen was appointed Chief of INMLRS in March, 2019. In her overall tenure with the Department of Justice, Ms. Chen has tried 13 cases, including five complex, multi-week criminal trials involving money laundering and racketeering gang (“RICO”) cases in a 15-month span in 2018-2019 alone, and a month-long, rare federal murder trial resulting in the mandatory life imprisonment conviction of a Mexican Mafia member.
Ms. Chen has worked on significant investigations and cases, many of them novel and ground-breaking, in all priority areas of INMLRS, including: a unique 22-defendant complex, transnational hawala money laundering case which was bestowed the OCDETF Program’s National Award for 2018 Outstanding Transnational Money Laundering Investigation; a 51-defendant RICO case targeting the Mexican Mafia-affiliated Canta Ranas violent criminal street gang, resulting in the first murder conviction for a Mexican Mafia member and a resulting mandatory life prison sentence, and a novel 22-defendant RICO case charging a criminal enterprise comprised of three traditional rival Hispanic violent criminal street gangs unified under one Mexican Mafia member which has been credited for the gentrification of the Frogtown area and the overall decrease of crimes in Northeast Los Angeles; one of the first significant large-scale synthetic drug/opioid cases before the opioid crisis was declared to be an epidemic which resulted in, amongst other things, the conviction of a Chinese foreign national who manufactured synthetic precursor chemicals in a clandestine laboratory before smuggling them into the United States using false invoices and labels; and a sprawling transnational organized crime case consisting of continuing criminal enterprise, drug trafficking importation and trafficking, and money laundering charges against 47 defendants, including a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (“CPOT”) lead defendant who is one of the richest and most powerful men in the world accused of torturing, murdering, and dismembering two victims (caught on video) and dozens of Colombian and Mexican foreign national defendants. She has obtained hundreds of wiretaps of different types of target facilities and the rare physical bug.
She has worked with all of INMLRS’s primary federal and local agency, and federal task force partners and in addition to receiving numerous commendations from them, has been nominated for Department of Justice awards of the highest levels, including the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service and the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys Director’s Award for Superior Performance as an Assistant United States Attorney multiple times. Immediately prior to joining the office and after her two federal judicial clerkships, Ms. Chen was a litigation associate at Latham & Watkins LLP for approximately three years, specializing in complex commercial, employment, and securities litigation and counseling. Ms. Chen has served as the Point of Contact on behalf of all California United States Attorney’s Offices for Joint Task Force-West Corridor and as the Coordinator for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (“HIDTA”) in addition to being a member of the office’s Hiring Committee, an organizer for its participation in the Public Interest Fair, an election monitor for the Department of Justice, and the Central District of California Election Frauds and Voting Rights Abuses Co-Point of Contact for the 2016 National Presidential Election. For years, Ms. Chen has provided training on courtroom skills and has also served as both a formal assigned and informal mentor to many junior AUSAs within the office and to disadvantaged and at-risk youth, including through participation in Project LEAD as a facilitator and in anti-gang and anti-drug community outreach. In her current role as Chief of INMLRS, she encourages members of the section to perform community and outreach service designed to enhance the relationship of the USAO with its law enforcement agency counterparts and, ultimately, with the diverse and broad communities it serves.
Ms. Chen graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1996 and obtained her Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School in 2000, after which she clerked for the late Honorable Pamela Ann Rymer on the Ninth Circuit and the Honorable (and former United States Attorney) Lourdes G. Baird in the Central District of California.
Section Contact Information
The United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California
Attn: International Narcotics, Money Laundering, & Racketeering Section
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012