The United States Attorney’s Office has a branch office located in the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Santa Ana. The Santa Ana branch office investigates and prosecutes federal crimes occurring in Orange County. With over 3 million residents, Orange County is the third largest county in the state of California.
The Assistant United States Attorneys (“AUSAs”) in Santa Ana prosecute a wide variety of criminal matters. A large part of the branch office’s cases involve economic crimes such as mail and wire fraud, health care fraud, bank and mortgage fraud, securities fraud, investment fraud, money laundering, identity theft, tax evasion, and copyright infringement. Defendants in other recent prosecutions brought by the branch office have been charged with public corruption, racketeering and organized crime offenses, narcotics trafficking, interstate transportation of minors, production and possession of child pornography, illegal possession of and trafficking in firearms, counterfeiting, postal offenses, and bank robberies. Santa Ana AUSAs also pursue cases involving illegal export of products and data, economic espionage, theft of trade secrets, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, terrorism, alien smuggling, and immigration-related fraud.
Santa Ana AUSAs investigate and prosecute cases in coordination with agents from a variety of federal agencies, most of which have field offices in Orange County. The Office also works with state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as with interagency groups such as the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Santa Ana Gang Task Force, and Southern California Regional Sexual Assault and Exploitation Felony Enforcement Team.
Dennise Willett is the Chief of the Santa Ana Branch Office and also serves as Senior Counsel to the United States Attorney. AUSA Willett has served in the Justice Department for the last 19 years. After four years as agency counsel for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, she became an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of California. While in San Diego, AUSA Willett was assigned to the newly-formed Counterterrorism Section and oversaw Operation Game Day, resulting in successful prosecutions of threats to Super Bowl XXXVII. In 2003, AUSA Willett transferred to the Central District of California, Riverside Branch Office, where she prosecuted various crimes including bank fraud, embezzlement, violent crimes, child exploitation, narcotics trafficking and firearms violations. In 2005, AUSA Willett received the Anti-Defamation League’s Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate in recognition of successful prosecutions of white supremacist gang leaders in Yucca Valley. In 2008, AUSA Willett was promoted to Deputy Chief of the National Security Section in Los Angeles. In that capacity, AUSA Willett successfully prosecuted a purported member of the anti-Castro terrorist group, Alpha 66, for stockpiling explosives, machineguns and over 1,600 firearms behind false walls and bookshelves at his personal residence.
In June 2010, AUSA Willett was promoted to Chief of the Santa Ana Branch Office. AUSA Willett oversees federal criminal prosecutions in Orange County and manages day-to-day operations in the Branch. In 2012, AUSA Willett received the Anti-Defamation League’s Sherwood Prize for Combating Hate for prosecuting members of Public Enemy Number One, a white supremacist group in Orange County. In 2013, AUSA Willett successfully tried, convicted, and denaturalized Jorge Sosa for providing false statements to the United States about his participation in the massacre of villagers in Dos Erres, Guatemala. In July 2015, AUSA Willett was appointed as Senior Counsel to the United States Attorney. In this capacity, she advises the United States Attorney on district-wide issues, in addition to serving as Santa Ana Branch Chief.
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Section Contact Information
The United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California
Santa Ana Branch Office
411 West Fourth Street
Santa Ana, California 92701
(855) 898-3957 (Toll Free)