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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 have been charged with crimes such as public corruption, racketeering, narcotics trafficking, child exploitation, illegal possession of and trafficking in firearms, counterfeiting, and bank robbery. Santa Ana AUSAs also pursue cases involving espionage, theft of trade secrets, smuggling, human trafficking, conspiracy, and fraud against the United States. NSD AUSAs also work in the branch and investigate terrorism related crimes and the illegal export of products and data.

Santa Ana AUSAs investigate and prosecute cases in partnership with agents from a variety of federal law enforcement agencies. The Office works closely with state and local law enforcement, as well as with interagency groups such as the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Orange County 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. AUSA Willett has worked in the United States Justice Department for the last 22 years. After four years as agency counsel, 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 addition to serving as Branch Chief, from July 2015 to January 2018, AUSA Willett served as Senior Counsel to the United States Attorney.

Recent Cases

April 11, 2019
Press Release
Attorney Michael Avenatti Named in Federal Grand Jury Indictment that Accuses Him of Stealing Millions of Dollars from Clients

March 25, 2019
Press Release
Lawyer Michael Avenatti Arrested on Federal Bank Fraud and Wire Fraud Charges

March 21, 2019
Press Release
SoCal Trio Indicted for Allegedly Conspiring to Sell 100 Pounds of Methamphetamine at Luxury Orange County Hotel

March 4, 2019
Press Release
Long Beach Man Who Led Crew That Committed 10 Armed Robberies of Verizon Stores in Two States Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

February 4, 2019
Press Release
Yucaipa Man Who Participated in ‘White Glove Bandits’ Robbery Spree Sentenced to over 200 Months in Federal Prison

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 11, 2019

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