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Violent and Organized Crime Section

Section Overview

AUSAs in the Violent and Organized Crime Section (VOCS) prosecute some of the most dangerous criminals in the Central District, including cases involving kidnapping, prison murders and assaults, firearms offenses, and armed robberies of banks and other commercial establishments. AUSAs in the Section also investigate organized crime groups, including traditional domestic, Asian, Eurasian, and emerging criminal organizations.

The Violent and Organized Crime Section serves as the liaison with the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program, which seeks to coordinate efforts by federal and state law enforcement, as well as community groups, to combat criminal firearm use, particularly by violent gangs. In conjunction with the PSN program, AUSAs work with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to develop criminal cases against the leaders of organized street gangs responsible for much of the Central District’s gun violence. In these and other cases involving violent organized crime, AUSAs are often involved in long-term investigations that use undercover agents, court-authorized wiretaps, surveillance, and other covert investigation tactics to develop racketeering (RICO), narcotics, and money laundering cases. AUSAs also work with the Violence Reduction Network Program, which combines federal and state law enforcement resources to tackle violent crime in the Compton area.

In conjunction with the national Project Safe Childhood Program (PSC), AUSAs in the Section lead the Office’s efforts to combat crimes against children, particularly the sexual exploitation of minors through the production, advertisement, distribution, and possession of child pornography via the Internet. The Section also coordinates the prosecution of human trafficking offenses, including those who traffic minors and adults for sex, perpetuate indentured servitude, and engage in labor trafficking.

Section Leadership

Joanna Curtis

Joanna Curtis has been a prosecutor for 17 years—five years with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and 12 years with the Central and Southern Districts of California.  Ms. Curtis has conducted and supervised scores of jury trials in federal and state courts.  Throughout her prosecutorial career, she focused on gang and violent crime prosecutions.  Since 2012 when Ms. Curtis joined the Violent and Organized Crime Section, she led prosecution teams in obtaining racketeering indictments against over 80 MS-13 members and associates, including three juvenile defendants.  In July 2019, Ms. Curtis obtained an indictment charging 22 MS-13 members with racketeering, first degree murder, and VICAR murder.  According to the Capital Crimes Section, Joanna’s case included the most capital-eligible defendants of any case in 2019.  Her federal prosecution of other high profile murder cases includes a cruise ship murder and the November 1, 2013 murder of a Transportation Security Administration Officer at LAX—both resulted in sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  Ms. Curtis earned a Juris Doctor degree from Pepperdine University School of Law.

Recent Cases

May 5, 2021
Press Release
San Pedro Man Sentenced to 11 Years in Federal Prison for Robbing Gardena Credit Union at Gunpoint with Employee’s Help

April 28, 2021
Press Release
Federal Indictments Target Street Gang for Alleged Crack Cocaine Distribution and Firearm Offenses at Housing Projects in Watts

April 12, 2021
Press Release
Ex-L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Sentenced to Seven Years in Federal Prison for Leading $2 Million Armed Robbery of Marijuana Warehouse

April 9, 2021
Press Release
Grand Jury Indicts Huntington Park Man in Alleged Three-Month Robbery Spree Targeting 15 Trader Joe’s Grocery Stores

March 15, 2021
Press Release
Palm Desert Man Pleads Guilty to Firebombing Republican Club

Section Contact Information

The United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California
Criminal Division
Attn: Violent and Organized Crime Section
312 North Spring Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

Updated May 5, 2021

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