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Santa Ana Branch Office

Section Overview

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 portion of the branch office’s prosecutions involve economic crimes such as mail and wire fraud, health care fraud, bank and mortgage fraud, securities fraud, investment fraud, money laundering, identity theft and tax evasion. Defendants in other recent prosecutions been charged with public corruption, racketeering and organized crime offenses, narcotics trafficking, child exploitation offenses, human trafficking, illegal possession of and trafficking in firearms, counterfeiting, and bank robberies. Santa Ana AUSAs also pursue cases involving espionage, theft of trade secrets, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, alien smuggling, and immigration-related fraud. NSD AUSAs also work in the Santa Ana Branch and investigate terrorism related crimes and the illegal export of products and data.

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.

Section Leadership

Dennise Willett

Dennise Willett is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and U.C. Davis King Hall School of Law. She is Chief of the Santa Ana Branch Office and also serves as Senior Counsel to the United States Attorney. AUSA Willett has worked in the United States Justice Department for the last 20 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. As Senior Counsel, she advises the United States Attorney on district-wide issues, in addition to serving as Santa Ana Branch Chief.

Recent Cases

April 5, 2018
Press Release
Three O.C. Men Face Federal Narcotics Charges that Allege Distribution of Counterfeit Opioid Pills Containing Fentanyl

March 30, 2018
Press Release
Pasadena Man Sentenced to 81 Months in Federal Prison for Leading an Organization Engaged in Fraud and Identity Theft

March 22, 2018
Press Release
Irvine Man Found Guilty of Defrauding Businessman out of $648,000 with Claims Investment would Develop Stem Cell Research Product

March 15, 2018
Press Release
O.C. Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Wire Fraud Charge and Admits Defrauding Victims of Three Investment Schemes out of $6.8 Million

March 15, 2018
Press Release
Pro Poker Player Indicted on Fraud Charges Alleging Theft of over $6 Million Dollars in Super Bowl and World Cup Ticket-Flipping Scam

Section Contact Information

The United States Attorney's Office
Central District of California
Santa Ana Branch Office
Suite 8000
411 West 4th Street
Santa Ana, California 92701
(714) 338-3500
(855) 898-3957 (Toll Free)

Updated April 5, 2018

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