On February 25, 2016, Assistant United States Attorney Joseph Widman, Chief of the Riverside Branch Office, was sworn in as the President of the Federal Bar Association's Inland Empire chapter. Congratulations to AUSA Widman, and best wishes for a productive and successful year.
On October 24, 2015, several members of the US Attorney's Office converged in Long Beach to participate in Make a Difference Day 2015. This remarkable group volunteered for Rebuilding Together Long Beach and, along with HOPE (Home Ownership for Personal Empowerment), the Surfrider Foundation and Long Beach Water Department, planted drought-tolerant and ocean-friendly landscaping at low-income housing in Long Beach.
On September 25, 2015, volunteers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office participated in the Annual YMCA Stair Climb in Los Angeles. These intrepid athletes climbed 1,664 steps (75 stories) to support subsidized program participation for children, teens, families, and seniors in some of the most under-resourced neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles.
Summer Night Lights Community Engagement
The United States Attorney’s Office has partnered with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office to provide volunteer assistance to the City’s award- winning Summer Night Lights program, a nationally recognized anti-violence project sponsored by the City of Los Angeles’ Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD). Summer Night Lights programs operate during the summer months in more than 30 parks and recreation centers throughout Los Angeles; keeping the neighborhood parks open late into the night as safe havens of activities for young people and their families. In 2011, at the behest of the City, the United States Attorney’s Office “adopted” the Summer Night Lights site located at Jim Gilliam Park and Recreation Center in the Baldwin Village neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Jim Gilliam Park was selected because South Los Angeles had a long history of high crime rates and gang violence and the Office volunteers wanted to make an impactful contribution to violence prevention in the neighborhood.
Dozens of lawyers and staff from the all over the Office volunteer at Jim Gilliam Park and work side-by side with GRYD staff, helping to run a variety of activities for local youth, including basketball games, a skateboard park, arts and crafts tables, and a popular face-painting station for little girls and boys. Other volunteers work with GRYD staff to help cook and serve hundreds of meals for neighborhood residents during the course of a typical Summer Night Lights evening.
Since 2013, the Office has also conducted a youth tennis clinic on the Jim Gilliam Park tennis courts. Office volunteers run the clinic and have recruited a USTA certified teaching professional to lead the instruction. Hundreds of boys and girls have participated in the clinics. In 2015, the Office volunteers went even further and a group of federal prosecutors successfully petitioned the City of Los Angeles to resurface and refurbish the aging Jim Gilliam Park tennis courts. The beautification of the Baldwin Village tennis courts is a permanent testament to the impact that engagement efforts can have on a local neighborhood.
The results in the community have also been significant. The City’s statistics indicate that crime rates in the Baldwin Village neighborhood typically drop during the Summer Night Lights program. Beyond statistics, United States Attorney’s Office volunteers have reported that the park and neighborhood have become safer every year that they have volunteered in the community. Perhaps most importantly, this outreach project provides an ongoing platform for community members and federal lawyers and staff to meet and engage outside the confines of a federal courtroom.
On February 18 and 19, 2015, President Barack Obama hosted the “White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.” Senior administration officials, including Attorney General Eric Holder, federal, state and local law enforcement officials, including Acting United States Attorney for the Central District of California, Stephanie Yonekura, and community members and stakeholders from Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Boston all participated in the Summit. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also joined the participants. Click on the picture above to access a link to an original eleven-minute Film entitled Countering Violent Extremism: The Los Angeles Model, which was created by Ken Arlidge of AeroFilm, in association with the Los Angeles Police Department and members of the Los Angeles Community. The Film was unveiled to the public at the White House Summit as part of the overall presentation by the Los Angeles Community. The fourteen-page Los Angeles Framework For Countering Violent Extremism and the accompanying one-page CVE Fact Sheet can be viewed at links below.
CDCA and Summer Night Lights
On Thursday, July 26, one of the longest and most beautiful evenings of the year, the United States Attorney’s Office launched their annual volunteer partnership with the City of Los Angeles’ Summer Night Lights Program (“SNL”) at Jim Gilliam Park in the Baldwin Village neighborhood of Los Angeles. USTA Teaching Pro, Marty Woods, and AUSAs Dennis Mitchell, Heather Gorman and Bruce Riordan led the Youth Tennis Clinic on the tennis courts of lower Jim Gilliam Park, running dozens of neighborhood youth through tennis training drills. Community Relations Specialist Gymeka Williams coordinated CDCA volunteers Shaton McDaniel (and her husband), Richard Cordero, Sarah Spielberger, Pat Myles, and Daryl Meigs at the upper level of the Park – where they helped to cook and serve hundreds of hamburgers to neighborhood residents. The SNL Program Managers described the CDCA’s effort as “amazing.” The SNL Program will continue at Jim Gilliam Park throughout the summer and the CDCA will provide volunteers every Thursday night.
Project L.E.A.D., short for “Legal Enrichment and Decision-Making,” is a 20 week law-related program designed for fifth grade students in Los Angeles County that is sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. At the end of the 20 week course of study, the students conduct a mock trial. Once again this year, AUSAs Robyn Bacon, Ben Barron, Martin Estrada, David Kirman, Nick Trutanich, and Jennifer Williams, volunteered as a team of instructors for the United States Attorney’s Office at Utah Street Elementary School in Boyle Heights. On May 23, the students conducted a 75 minute trial in United States District Judge James Otero’s Courtroom where the students play all the roles in a criminal case. After the mock trial was complete, the students visited with United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Asian-American Pacific islander Heritage Month Celebration
On May 21, 2014, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Federal Public Defender’s Office co-hosted a special diversity event to mark the annual celebration of Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The full-capacity event was held during the lunch hour in the Training Room inside the USAO’s Civil Division. Acting First Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Yonekura introduced the keynote speaker, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Cho, a former Assistant United States Attorney and Chief of General Crimes in Los Angeles. Judge Cho’s heartfelt words about the significance of culture, public service, and family were warmly received. Collective efforts by Special Emphasis Program Managers Cedina Kim and Ivy Wang, along with members of the Office’s Diversity Committee, made the occasion possible. Finally, all of the potluck contributors and food donors deserve special thanks for providing the food and beverages which were thoroughly enjoyed by the guests.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Larry Cho delivering his remarks
On Saturday, April 26, Community Relations Specialist Gymeka Williams led a group of CDCA volunteers’ participation in “National Rebuilding Day” in Long Beach, California. The effort was a part of the Rebuilding Together Long Beach (RTLB) program, a very active local branch of the national Rebuilding Together organization that brings volunteers together to help beautify and restore our nation’s communities. Ms. Williams was the “House Co-Captain” for the project and she and the volunteers donated their time and skill to restoring a house on Maine Avenue in Long Beach. The daylong effort brought together volunteers from all over the local area, including the various worlds of law enforcement, business and education, and it demonstrated that a focused and dedicated group of volunteers can make an enormous difference in their communities. Participants from the CDCA included, in addition to Ms. Williams, Frances Cintron and her husband, Edwin, Richard Cordero, Linda Lapham, Peggy Martin, Jennifer McNabb, Vib Mittal and wife, Nikki, Erik Silber, and Chi Tran.
USAO’s 13th Annual Law Enforcement Awards Presentation
On Friday, March 14th, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and the Central District of California hosted the 2014 United States Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony at the Ronald F. Deaton Civic Auditorium adjacent to the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department. At this year’s ceremony, the U. S. Attorney’s Office recognized the extraordinary efforts made in the seven counties of the District by more than 250 federal, state and local agents, officers, and investigators who worked on cases in every Division and Branch of the Office. The ceremony opened with the singing of “God Bless America” by Robert Dugdale, the CDCA’s Criminal Division Chief, and USA Birotte and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck delivered welcoming remarks. Both U.S. Attorney Birotte and Chief Beck noted the outstanding relations that exist in the District between federal, state and local law enforcement and pledged to continue those partnerships. Numerous volunteers from the CDCA, led by AUSAs Jennie Wang and Melanie Sartoris on stage, and David Herzog in the control booth, worked behind the scenes to make the ceremony a success.
United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. at The California Endowment
Effectively fighting fraud requires strong partnerships between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and one of the strongest partnerships in the Central District of California is the bond between the US Attorney’s Office and the local police departments of the District. This collaboration was on display at the International Law Enforcement Auditors Association (ILEAA) Conference held in Los Angeles at The California Endowment on January 8, 2014. The ILEAA Conference was hosted by the LAPD and it focused on the vital role that law enforcement auditors play in both fighting crime and assessing risk. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., a former Inspector General for the Los Angeles Police Commission, and LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck both spoke at the conference and they emphasized ever-growing role played by forensic auditors at law enforcement agencies. The event was attended by forensic auditors from all over the nation.
US Attorney André Birotte Jr. with FBI Assistant Director Bill Lewis, Community Relations Specialist Gymeka Williams, and participants in the Anti-Human Trafficking Summit
January 2014 has been proclaimed National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month by President Obama (see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/12/31/presidential-proclamation-national-slavery-and-human-trafficking-prevent). In addition to efforts to investigate and prosecute human trafficking violations, law enforcement has also been proactive with respect to outreach, education and prevention efforts in local communities. To that end, on Saturday, January 11, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI co-hosted an Anti-Human Trafficking Summit to assist local prevention efforts and help raise awareness about the many facets of human trafficking. The all-day Summit was held at the National Council of Jewish Woman/Los Angeles (NCJWLA) in Los Angeles and featured presenters and participants from federal and local law enforcement, as well as local community stakeholders and victims’ services organizations. Presenters included prosecutors, investigators, subject matter experts, victims’ advocates and victims who were survivors of human trafficking. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and FBI Assistant Director in Charge Bill Lewis also participated, along with AUSAs Daniel Ackerman, Lane Dilg, Joe Widman, and Bruce Riordan. Community Relations Specialist Gymeka Williams planned and organized the Summit, along with assistance of volunteers from the Expediente Rojo Project, Inc. (http://www.expedienterojo.org/) and the NCJWLA.
AUSA Lane Dilg presenting at the Anti-Human Trafficking Summit
Pictured from left to right are Mike Powell, Special Agent in Charge of HUD OIG’s Joint Civil Fraud Division (JCFD); HUD OIG Forensic Auditor Chris Hyun; AUSAs Geoffrey Wilson & Dorothy Schouten; Kim Randall, Director of HUD OIG’s JCFD; James Todak, Special Agent in Charge, HUD OIG Los Angeles, and Tony Putuzulu, HUD OIG Supervisory Forensic Auditor.
The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) is composed of each of the 73 Federal Inspectors General (IGs) as well as several other government ethics and law enforcement officials. Every year, in recognition of excellence in the pursuit of the IG communities’ mission to combat fraud, waste, abuse, and to improve the economy and efficiency of federal program operations, CIGIE recognizes outstanding accomplishments of the IG Community. On January 7, 2014 Civil Division AUSAs Dorothy Schouten and Geoffrey Wilson, together with their HUD OIG investigation team, were recipients of the 2013 CIGIE Award for Excellence in Multiple Disciplines for their work on the Terrill Meisinger Foreclosure Rescue and Rent Skimming Scheme. Terrill Meisinger was the mastermind behind a massive rent-skimming scheme involving hundreds of properties and the collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit rents. Over the years, his scheme ruined the credit of many distressed homeowners and even led some scam victims to become homeless. Meisinger had eluded prosecution for more than a decade while the colossal scope of his scheme earned him the moniker, the “Skimming King.” However, the “Skimming King” was finally brought to justice when AUSAs Schouten and Wilson obtained a $5,000,000.00 judgment against him, one of the nation’s largest Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, 12 U.S.C. §1833a (“FIRREA”) civil penalty judgments against an individual to date. Kim Randall, Director of HUD OIG’s Joint Civil Fraud Division (JFCD), and Mike Powell, Special Agent in Charge of HUD OIG’s JCFD presented the award to AUSAs Schouten and Wilson on behalf of CIGIE at a ceremony held in Los Angeles.
With Veterans’ Day approaching, United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr and others from the CDCA joined with consumer protection experts and advocates from all over California at the State’s first Consumer Protection Summit focused entirely on the needs of our Military Service Members and their families. The day-long Summit took place on November 6 in downtown Los Angeles at The California Endowment and was hosted by Jackie Lacey and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and Brian Stiger and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs. The California Consumer Affairs Association sponsored the Summit, which was attended by over 100 representatives of the Military and Military JAG services. US Attorney Birotte delivered one of the event’s keynote speeches and AUSA Richard Robinson, the Chief of the CDCA’s Major Frauds Unit, appeared on a law enforcement panel. Gymeka Williams, the CDCA’s Community Relations Specialist, and AUSA Bruce Riordan, Special Counsel to the US Attorney, both assisted with in the preparation of the Summit and attended on behalf of the CDCA.
Commander Randy Allen, Gymeka Williams,
Chief of Police Jim McDonnell and Linda Lapham
On Saturday, October 26, volunteers from the United States Attorney’s Office participated in the Rebuilding Together Long Beach Program (RTLB) and helped clean-up a Long Beach residence in serious need of assistance. Volunteers from the Office, including United States Attorney Birotte, joined volunteers from the Long Beach Police Department, including Chief of Police Jim McDonnell and Commander Randy Allen, the Long Beach Fire Department, Cal State Long Beach and others, to help rebuild a residence in North Long Beach. The day-long project included a variety of tasks, including painting, construction and general clean-up. At the end of the day, the residence was sparkling clean and the street corner was transformed, demonstrating the power of collective community engagement. The CDCA’s involvement was arranged by the Office’s Community Relations Specialist, Gymeka Williams, who also served as an RTLB Project Captain.
Shaton McDaniel and her fiancé Dominick, with US Attorney Birotte
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration
On October 23, 2013, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and the CDCA hosted a special event to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month featuring the Honorable Ninth Circuit Judge Richard A. Paez and Honorable District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez. The event took place in the courtroom of the Honorable District Court Judge S. James Otero in the Spring Street Courthouse where both Judge Paez and Judge Gutierrez regaled the audience with stories from their upbringing and careers and then engaged in a Q & A session. The crowded house included attendees from all over the Courthouse – The United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Public Defenders Office, U.S. Probation, the Court Clerk’s Office and the Federal Judiciary. Afterwards, light refreshments were provided for the attendees. Special thanks for the coordination of the celebration goes to Special Emphasis Program Manager, Cristina Wilson, and the CDCA’s Diversity Committee.
Central District Hosts Consumer Protection Workshop
On Sunday, September 22, 2013, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. hosted a “Consumer Protection Workshop” at the Islamic Center of San Gabriel Valley, in Rowland Heights, California. The Consumer Protection Workshop was an interactive event for the community to help educate, raise awareness and provide resources to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. The event featured a panel of consumer protection experts: Randy Stokes, Acting, Inspector In Charge for the Postal Inspection Service, Los Angeles Division; Thomas Syta, Assistant Regional Director for the Federal Trade Commission; Rigoberto Reyes, Chief, Investigations of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs; Sandor E. Samuels, President and CEO of Bet Tzedek; Vince Farhat, pro-bono attorney for Bet Tzedek and Partner at Holland & Knight; and Sergeant Mike Abdeen, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Three AUSAs from the CAC’s Riverside office also made presentations: Chief, AUSA Antoine Raphael, Deputy Chief, AUSA Joseph Widman, and AUSA Daniel Ackerman. In addition to the panel discussion that covered the following topics: mail fraud, elder financial fraud, health care fraud, and identity theft, the Workshop also included consumer information tables and complaint counseling. CAC’s Victims/Witness Coordinator Jeff Alabaso participated and provided copies of the 2013 Consumer Action Handbook. Gymeka Williams, Community Relations Specialist for the CAC planned and organized the event.
The 2013 Consumer Protection Workshop is part of the efforts of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Working Group (the CPWG). The CPWG is part of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force which was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. U.S. Attorney Birotte is one of the Co-Chairs of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force’s Consumer Protection Working Group. The CPWG brings together federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, regulators, and other stakeholders to protect consumers from fraud that can devastate victims and cause widespread economic harm. Through this partnership, the CPWG is working to strengthen consumer protection efforts, leverage resources, enhance civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud and educate the public in an effort to prevent consumers from being victimized. For more information about the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
On May 17, the United States Attorney’s Office again hosted a class of fifth grade students from the Utah Street Elementary School in Central Los Angeles as part of an ongoing program known as Project LEAD (“Legal Education and Decision-Making”). The 30 students participated in a complete "mock" trial before United States District Judge S. James Otero at the United States Courthouse in Los Angeles. Judge Otero presided over the hour-long criminal jury trial which represented the summation of the students’ year-long course of studies in the justice system. A team made up entirely of Assistant United States Attorneys from the Central District of California, Kevin Rosenberg, Jennifer Williams, Nick Trutanich, Martin Estrada, Robyn Bacon, Ben Barron and David Kirman, were the instructors for the class. For the trial, Utah Street students played all the roles, including the prosecuting and defense lawyers, the witnesses, the bailiff, the jury members and even the accused, and they were proctored throughout by the AUSAs. During the course of the year-long class, the students worked closely with the AUSAS, met FBI special agents and other local law enforcement professionals, and studied all aspects of the criminal justice system. At the conclusion of the May 17 trial, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. offered congratulations to the class, and handed out Project LEAD graduation certificates to the students. He also hosted a pizza lunch for the students in the Daniel S. Goodman Conference Room at the United States Attorney’s Office where he and the AUSA proctors talked with the students about the benefits of an education and future careers in the law and law enforcement.
United States Attorney Birotte addresses the Health Care Consumer Protection Summit at The California Endowment in Los Angeles
The close link between public safety, public health, and consumer protection is a vital one in the Central District of California and on April 23 US Attorney André Birotte Jr. addressed this subject at the Health Care Consumer Protection Summit in Los Angeles County, a half-day Summit convened at The California Endowment in downtown Los Angeles. The event was co-hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, California Consumer Affairs Association, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and it featured the presence of numerous not-for-profit stakeholders and legal services like the Community Clinic Association of LA County, the Wise & Healthy Aging Services and the Los Angeles Neighborhood Legal Services. Well over 120 persons from the various agencies and organizations attended and participated. In his opening remarks, U.S. Attorney Birotte called on federal and local law enforcement to work closer than ever before with state and local health services and stakeholders in both the public and private sector in order to educate consumers about the increasing dangers and perils of health care fraud in today’s society. AUSA David Kirman, one of the CDCA's Health Care Fraud Coordinators, appeared on a panel with representatives of the FBI, the FDA and HHS, and the Office of the California Attorney General. AUSA Bruce Riordan and Community Relations Specialist Gymeka Williams helped organize the event, the first of its kind in the region, along with Rigoberto Reyes, Chief Investigator for the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs.
AUSA David Kirman and District Director Alonza Cruse of the FDA listen to Rigoberto Reyes of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs
U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr., Mr. Said Dibinga of the New Designs Charter School, Los Angeles County Commissioner Nicole Bershon, and Federal Bankruptcy Judge Sandra Klein
CDCA Participates in Federal Court’s Power Lunch Program
“Cultivate mentors,” was the message delivered by United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. to students attending the Federal Court “Power Lunch Program” held on March 15, 2013 at the Roybal Federal Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. U.S. Attorney Birotte added: “And if you want to find good mentors, then all you have to do is look around this room today.” The Federal Court Power Lunch Program is modeled after a program conducted by the Los Angeles County Superior Court and it aims to bring local students together with federal judges and lawyers to talk about future careers in the law. The March 15 Program featured 30 students from the New Designs Charter School at University Park in Los Angeles and it included Judges and Magistrates from the Federal District Court and the Federal Bankruptcy Court, as well as Judges and Commissioners from the Los Angeles Superior Court. AUSAs Nili Moghaddam, Cathy Ostiller and Bruce Riordan participated along with U.S. Attorney Birotte and other representatives from the Federal Public Defenders Office and the federal bar. The New Designs Students played a spirited game of “Legal Jeopardy,” hosted by United States Bankruptcy Judge Sandra Klein, showing off their impressive knowledge of, and interest in, the practice of law. Given the enthusiasm of the New Designs students, the future of the legal profession would appear to be in very good hands.
AUSA Sheila Nagaraj, Judge Otis D. Wright, AUSA Ami Sheth, AUSA Priya Sopori, AUSA Amanda Bettinelli, AUSA Rupa Goswami, AUSA Harvinder Anand, AUSA Alka Sagar, Laboni Hoq, Judge Jay C. Gandhi, USA André Birotte Jr.
CDCA Hosts Program Celebrating South Asian Diversity
On Friday, January 11, 2013, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., hosted the Central District’s first South Asian Diversity Event, celebrating diversity in the United States Attorney’s Office, the federal courthouse, and the broader Los Angeles community. The event was held in the courtroom of Federal Judge Otis D. Wright. A number of federal judges including, Judge Manuel Real, Judge Terry Hatter, Judge Ronald Lew, and Judge George Wu attended, as did Sean Kennedy, the Federal Public Defender for the District, and several Deputy Federal Public Defenders. The event featured three speakers from the local legal community: The Hon. Halim Dhanidina of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, the first Muslim judge appointed to the bench in the State of California; Laboni Hoq, Esq., a civil rights attorney and the Litigation Director at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center; and The Hon. Jay C. Gandhi, United States Magistrate Judge for the Central District of California, the first South Asian federal judicial officer in California’s history. Two AUSAs from the CDCA also made presentations: AUSA Alka Sagar and AUSA Rupa Goswami. In addition to highlighting the progress and diversity of the South Asian Community, the event also addressed the subject of hate crimes committed against South Asians and other persons – a focus area for the Department of Justice. The South Asian Community include persons whose families emigrated from the greater South Asian subcontinent, namely, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal.
In Photo, L to R: Dennis Mitchell, Heather Gorman, Jeff Mitchell, AC Green, Gymeka Williams, Monica Ramirez, Angela Fiore, Chi Tran Rigoberto Reyes. (Not pictured: Tonia Godfrey, Maryvette Hoffman, Erika Johnson, Teresa Martinez and Cissye Tyus, David Wooderson.)
The holidays are always a time for giving, and, on Friday, December 14, volunteers from the United States Attorney's Office displayed that spirit by joining forces with the folks at the All Peoples Community Center ("APCC") in Downtown Los Angeles to assist with the APCC's annual Holiday Party for local residents. The Holiday Party took place in the APCC's gymnasium and ran from the afternoon into the evening, capped off by a family style dinner for all the guests. APCC has served the residents of Downtown Los Angeles for decades and their annual Holiday Party brings joy and nourishment to countless local children and their families. This year, former Los Angeles Laker basketball star A.C. Green also took part in the festivities and he made time to take a picture with some of the CDCA volunteers. Happy Holidays to all.
Thanksgiving is a time when people all across the country stop and give thanks for the many gifts that this nation offers. In that spirit, on November 14, more than a dozen volunteers from the Central District of California joined United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. at the All People's Community Center ("APCC") in downtown Los Angeles to serve Thanksgiving dinners to those in need. Every year, as part of its Thanksgiving Celebration, the APCC feeds Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of needy families in the downtown Los Angeles area. This year, US Attorney Birotte and the CDCA volunteers helped the APCC staff and other local volunteers serve turkey and all the traditional fixings, as well as mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, to more than 600 people who may otherwise not have had a Thanksgiving dinner at all. Happy Thanksgiving to all from the United States Attorney’s Office.
Kasia Gondek, Director of Community Programs at the Skirball Cultural Center introduces Sandy Samuels of Bet Tzedek and US Attorney André Birotte Jr.
Scams targeting seniors and the elderly are on the rise in the Internet Age and consumer protection experts advise that education is the most important element of a successful fraud prevention program. With that goal in mind, on November 13, 2012, the Central District of California teamed up with Bet Tzedek Legal Services of Los Angeles to produce a short program to educate local seniors on scams and how to avoid being victimized by fraud. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., Sandy Samuels of Bet Tzedek and Debbie Deem of the Los Angeles Regional Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation led an interactive presentation for seniors from the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. The event included materials prepared by Ms. Deem, a Victim Specialist at the FBI, Postal inspector Shari Delaney, and AUSAs Ellyn Lindsay and Bruce Riordan, and USA Birotte anticipates that the program will be a model for similar events in the coming year.
CDCA Law Enforcement Awards Presentation
United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and the Central District of California hosted the 2012 United States Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 19 at the Ronald F. Deaton Auditorium adjacent to the headquarters of the Los Angeles Police Department. At this year’s ceremony, the CDCA recognized the extraordinary efforts made in the District by 298 federal, state and local agents, officers, investigators, and forensic experts. In addition to the individual awards, a special “Lifetime Achievement Award” was given to Briane M. Grey, the recently retired Acting Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Field Office in Los Angeles, who had served with distinction in the District for many years. The ceremony opened with the singing of “America the Beautiful” by Robert Dugdale, CDCA Criminal Division Chief, and welcoming remarks were delivered by USA Birotte and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. Chief Beck noted that in his more than 30 years of service with the LAPD, he has “never observed better relations between federal and local law enforcement than the relationships that exist today.” Numerous volunteers from the CDCA, led by AUSAs Jennie Wang and Melanie Sartoris on stage, and David Herzog in the control booth, worked behind the scenes to make the annual ceremony a success.
On Wednesday, October 10, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. hosted “Tax SAUSA Appreciation Day” at the Central District’s Tax Division in Los Angeles. The event was organized by Sandra Brown, Chief of the Tax Division, and Deputy Chiefs Tom Coker & Robert Conte, in order to thank all of the Special Assistant United States Attorneys, or “SAUSAs,” who work in the CDCA’s Tax Division. The Tax Division’s SAUSAs are located throughout the District and their outstanding work on behalf of the Justice Department is an essential element of the Tax Division’s success. In addition to thanking all of the SAUSAs for their work, USA Birotte also handed out “milestone” achievement awards to nine Tax Division SAUSAs to commemorate their years of service. Receiving milestone awards for five years of service were SAUSAs Kris An, Hans Famularo, Nathan Johnston, Kathryn Meyer, Kim-Khan Nguyen, Kathleen Tagni, Michael Tan, and Aely Ullrich. SAUSA Linette Angelastro received a milestone award for her 15 years of service. Sandra Brown also received a special award of recognition from James A. Nelson, Area Counsel, and Benjamin R. Duncan, Deputy Area Counsel, from the IRS’s Office of the Chief Counsel. The ceremony concluded with refreshments in the Tax Division Conference Room before all the hard-working SAUSAs got back to their work enforcing the tax laws of the United States.
Elise Traub, Director of Wildlife Protection, Humane Society of the United States with AUSAs Joseph Johns, Rupa Goswami and Amanda Bettinelli
On October 2, the Humane Society of the United States (“HSUS”) presented its 2012 Humane Law Enforcement awards to the members of the Operation Cyberwild Task Force, a joint federal and state law enforcement effort that targeted the illegal Internet sale of trafficked wildlife products, and that resulted in more than a dozen persons charged with federal and state wildlife crimes in California and Nevada. Among the recipients were three Assistant United States Attorneys from the Central District of California: Joseph Johns, Rupa Goswami, and Amanda Bettinelli. Operation Cyberwild was the product of joint efforts by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. The Ceremony was held at the West Coast Headquarters of the HSUS in Los Angeles. In attendance were Elise Traub, Director of Wildlife Protection for the HSUS, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California André Birotte Jr., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dan Crum, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Resident Agent in Charge Erin Dean, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Deputy Resident Agent in Charge Ed Newcomer and representatives of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office and the California Fish and Game agency. The Humane Law Enforcement Award is awarded annually to law enforcement officials who have done remarkable work for wildlife in their community and for the enforcement of animal protection laws.
Shown in the photo are participants at the 2012 Consumer Education and Resource Fair: Edwardo Martinez, Consuella Mackey, André Birotte Jr, Ricky Ricardo, Dr. Sandra Moore, Brian Stiger, Brigadier General Sylvia Crockett of the California National Guard, and Major Jay Coggan of the California National Guard
It is often said that the best way to fight crime is to prevent it. On Saturday, September 22, 2012, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and a group of other federal, state and local officials took this adage to heart during a Los Angeles community event. The 2012 Consumer Education and Resource Fair, also known as “Scam Jam,” was created to raise public awareness about common scams and frauds, and to help people avoid being victimized by con artists and fraudsters. The special focus of this event was outreach to the elderly and to servicemembers and veterans who are often the target of scams and cons, but who may not be able to easily report such crimes. A panel of consumer protection experts, along with representatives of various agencies, including the FTC, the USCIS, and the California National Guard, addressed subjects ranging from mortgage fraud and identity theft to the illegal practice of immigration law and false advertisements. The event, organized and hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, was attended by local community members, veterans and servicemembers and ran from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the All Peoples Community Center at 822 E. 20th Street in Central Los Angeles. Subjects addressed during the fair included “notario” fraud, abusive debt collectors, fake lotteries and telemarketing scams. Federal, state and local agencies also provided on-site information, counseling and complaint intake. Services were provided in English and Spanish. The event was part of the national effort of the Department of Justice’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF). For more information on the FFETF, please visit www.stopfraud.gov
CDCA Participates in Summer Night Lights Program in Los Angeles
This summer, the Central District of California is participating in the City Of Los Angeles’ Summer Night Lights Program. Summer Night Lights is a groundbreaking anti- violence program that runs every week during the summer in over 30 parks and recreation centers throughout Los Angeles. The Program is designed to keep the parks open and active during the summer evenings for city youth and families to enjoy through a wide variety of activities designed for boys and girls. The CDCA’s participation in the Program during 2011 was so successful that the Summer Night Lights Staff invited United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. and the CDCA to “adopt” a park for the 2012 season, the only institution they have so honored. U.S. Attorney Birotte accepted the invitation and the CDCA “adopted” Jim Gilliam Park and Recreation Center in the Baldwin Village neighborhood of South Los Angeles. Every week, volunteers from all over the Office, including AUSAS, SAUSAs, staff, externs, and the U.S. Attorney, have been visiting the park after work and volunteering to cook and serve food, run the “Beauty Bar,” paint faces, organize and supervise games and educate the local community. The photos here are taken from the evening of August 2, 2012 and show the CDCA’s “grill team,” who cooked and served over 500 meals for local residents, and AUSA Lana Morton-Owens who, along with her colleagues, painted countless happy little faces.
On June 13, as part of a program known as Project LEAD (“Legal Education and Decision-Making”), 25 fifth grade students from the Utah Street Elementary School in Central Los Angeles participated in a full "mock" trial before United States District Judge Manuel L. Real at the United States Courthouse in Los Angeles. Judge Real presided over the hour-long criminal jury trial which represented the summation of the students’ year-long course of studies in the justice system. Project LEAD is a long-established legal education program for students sponsored and run by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office which places volunteer prosecutors in fifth grade classrooms in communities with high rates of juvenile crime, gang activity and high school drop-outs. Project LEAD is designed to introduce fifth-graders to the criminal justice system and to concepts such as accountability, peer pressure and racial tolerance.
For the Utah Street School program, a team made up entirely of Assistant United States Attorneys from the Central District of California, Kevin Rosenberg, Jennifer Williams, Nick Trutanich, Martin Estrada, Brian Klein and David Kirman, were all instructors for the class. For the June 13 trial, Utah Street students played all the roles, including both the prosecuting and defense lawyers, the witnesses, the bailiff, the jury members and even the accused, and they were proctored throughout by the team of AUSAs. During the course of the year-long class, the students worked closely with the AUSAS, met FBI special agents and local prosecutors, and studied all aspects of the criminal justice system. At the conclusion of the June 13 trial, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. offered congratulations to the class and handed out Project LEAD graduation certificates to the students, noting that they “represent our next generation of lawyers and leaders in Los Angeles.” In return, the students composed hand-drawn certificates of thanks for each of their AUSA instructors, mementos that are certain to grace a few office walls at the United States Attorney’s office.
On Tuesday, May 22, the United States Attorney’s Office and the United States District Court co-hosted the Central District’s annual celebration of Asian-American Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a program saluting the historic efforts of the Japanese-American soldiers from the 442 Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion who fought for this nation during World War Two. The soldiers of the 110th/442nd, often known colloquially as the “Go For Broke” Regiment, are the most decorated collection of service-members in American History. This year’s program was held at the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building and featured remarks from local KABC News Anchor, David Ono, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John R. Takasugi. The program also featured a special presentation from Donald Nose, the President of the Go For Broke National Education Center, which maintains the Go For Broke Monument located a block away from the Roybal Building. Mr. Nose was joined by two WWII veterans and Congressional Gold Medal honorees – Ken Akune and Mas Takahashi. Mr. Akune was a member of the Military Intelligence Service, and Mr. Takahashi was a Staff Sergeant in the 100th Infantry Battalion. Audrey B. Collins, Chief Judge of the Central District, and United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. also contributed remarks for this very special and most inspiring event.
Central District Consumer Protection Summit
On Saturday, April 28 , United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California hosted a Consumer Protection Summit at the Milken Family & Youth Center in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles. The Family & Youth Center is a neighborhood youth development facility run by the Los Angeles Urban League as part of their “Neighborhoods at Work” Program, and the Urban League, together with the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, helped the United States Attorney’s Office host the Summit. The Summit, the first of its kind in the District, brought together representatives and advocates from every level of federal, state, county and city government in the region, as well as from local legal services and NGOs who work in the consumer protection field. U.S. Attorney Birotte hosted a full house for over 4 hours of discussion and dialogue on strategies to raise consumer fraud awareness and to proactively fight consumer fraud in the District. Keynote Speakers included Commissioner Edith Ramirez of the Federal Trade Commission, Joe Dunn, the C.E.O of the California State Bar, Brian Stiger, the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, John Pitts, Intergovernmental Advisor at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Brian Nelson, Policy Advisor to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and Blair Taylor, the President of the Los Angeles Urban League. The events of the day were summed up in USA Birotte’s closing remarks: “I hope everyone leaves today’s Summit with a better awareness of the challenges we face in this field and also of the collective resources that are available to us to meet those challenges. We can all see the very real need that exists for raising fraud awareness and we can also see the enthusiasm and energy that all of the participants in this Summit have for protecting consumers. Our collective goal will be to harness the energy in this room and direct it towards new and improved means and methods to protect all consumers in our District.”
On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. hosted the Central District of California’s Annual Victims’ Rights Award Ceremony. The 2012 Ceremony, which was the Central District's largest yet, was held at the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles and recognized the contributions of a diverse group of federal prosecutors, special agents and local law enforcement officers from the Central District for their efforts on behalf of crime victims. United States Attorney Birotte also took the opportunity to recognize the members of the Central District’s Victim/Witness Team, Georgia Hanif, Dolores Perez, Jeff Alabaso and Clayesha McElwee with special recognition awards marking their dedication, both individually and collectively, to the support and advocacy of victims in the Central District. US Attorney Birotte took the occasion to remark that: “Today’s ceremony honors the struggle of all crime victims to be heard and also honors our victims’ advocates for their dedication to make sure those voices are heard. This is not easy work. Indeed, it may be the hardest work in the entire field of criminal law. But it is a vital component of our criminal justice system.”
United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and members of his staff attended festivities to mark the grand opening of the Islamic Learning Center of Reseda on Saturday, January 28. Mr. Birotte joined Dr. John Adbedi, Dr. Maher Hathout and the entire Board of Trustees of the Islamic Learning Center of Reseda for both a ribbon-cutting ceremony and the grand opening ceremony inside the Mosque. During the ceremony, the United States Attorney spoke about the Department of Justice's pledge to protect the civil rights and civil liberties -- including the right of worship -- of all Americans, regardless of race, religion or creed. The evening ended with a prayer session and dinner. The festivities were attended by representatives of the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, the Los Angeles City Council and dignitaries from local congressional offices and consulates. The Islamic Learning Center, which is now the largest Islamic house of worship in the San Fernando Valley, is the product of years of effort on behalf of the Islamic-American community and its supporters in the Los Angeles area.
At a Civil Rights Symposium hosted by the University of La Verne College of Law School on Friday, January 20, United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. participated in a panel discussion that addressed "The Challenges of Modern Policing." United States Attorney Birotte joined two distinguished guests -- Michael Gennaco, who is the Chief Attorney of the Los Angeles County Office of Independent Review, and Professor Laurie Levenson, who is the William M. Rains Fellow and David W. Burcham Chair in Ethical Advocacy at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. The three panel members addressed a wide variety of policing issues including civilian oversight, Section 1983 litigation and the challenges of "constitutional policing." The two-day Symposium was hosted by United States Magistrate Judge David T. Bristow and was well attended by law practitioners, academics and students from the Inland Empire.
To commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the United States Attorney’s Office participated in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast, which was hosted by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on the University of Southern California campus. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. was the keynote speaker at the January 14 event. Mr. Birotte spoke about the Justice Department’s long-term commitment to protecting and preserving Dr. King’s civil rights legacy. The breakfast program also included a performance by the Haitian Children’s Miracle Choir, a singing group made up of Haitian orphans who are from 8 to 15 years old. The Miracle Choir’s visit to the United States was coordinate by its musical director, Pastor Sam Sook Pack, and sponsored by a local Korean-American organization, the World Cultural & Sports Foundation, which is led by Grandmaster Tong Suk Chun. Mr. Birotte, who is himself of Haitian-American descent, invited the members of the Choir, Grandmaster Chun and Pastor Pack to the United States Attorney’s Office, where he hosted the young singers and their sponsors on January 17.
On November 30, members of the United States Attorney’s Office loaded three cars full of toys and clothing, and drove to the Compton Unified School District headquarters to participate in the agency’s Annual Holiday Toy Drive. After leaving a mountain of toys and clothes in the middle of the “toy room,” prosecutors and staff members met with Project Directors, who described the giddy, excited reactions of the children enter the well stocked toy room with the knowledge they are going to get to leave with a great new toy. Members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office donated nearly $4,000 – the highest total in the 10 years the office has participated in the Compton schools’ Holiday Toy Drive – making a significant contribution to the success of the annual event. Those delivering gifts were LECC coordinator Ted Marquez and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Meyer, Shawn Nelson, Bruce Riordan and Max Shiner.
The United States Attorney's Office participated in a community meeting on November 15 in the San Fernando Valley held in conjunction with the "Stand UP and Speak Out Against Bullying" Campaign. Hosted by the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division, the Reseda Neighborhood Council and the Reseda Magnet School, the meeting at the Reseda High School Auditorium brought together more than 200 students, parents, teachers and other interested parties. Speakers included United States Attorney Andr Birotte Jr., Los Angeles Police Commissioner Alan Skobin, LAPD Captain John Egan and community leader Monica Harmon. During the forum, the audience heard presentations on all forms of bullying and cyber-bullying, as well as on the dangers of "Sexting." Students and parents were given brochures and links to web sites to learn more information on the issues.
The United States Attorney’s Office co-hosted the third annual Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium for middle school students, teachers, administrators, and parents on September 30. The Symposium provided training by law enforcement and industry experts on Internet safety, including child exploitation, cyber bullying, sexting, piracy, malware and use of smart phones. This year’s Symposium featured appearances by Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca; Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich; United States Attorney André Birotte Jr.; Deanne Tilton Durfee, the Executive Director of the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (ICAN); José Horacio Gómez, the Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles; FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven Martinez; and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
On the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, this country came together to remember the victims of the attacks and to demonstrate the resilience of the American spirit. To both honor the victims of 9-11 and show support for the first responders who protect us from harm every day, members of the United States Attorney’s Office and their families participated in three memorial services during the 9-11 weekend. Our office was well represented at the “One Light” candlelight vigil on steps of Los Angeles City Hall, at the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Memorial Service, and at the Miracle Mile Civic Association’s planting of 343 trees in remembrance of the 343 firefighters and paramedics who lost their lives on 9-11. Across the region, lawyers and staff from our office also participated in other events, large and small, private and public.
United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. and a dozen volunteers from his office joined Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on August 11 at the Jim Gilliam Recreation Center in South Los Angeles for the city’s Summer Night Lights Program (SNL). At Jim Gilliam Park, volunteers from the United States Attorney’s Office teamed with SNL staff to operate two of the most popular stations of the evening. Assistant United States Attorneys and staff members tapped their inner artists by painting creative designs on the faces of countless happy children – as well as a few adults. Meanwhile, Mr. Birotte and a handful of Assistant U.S. Attorneys prepared and served more than 1,000 cheeseburgers and turkey burgers, which were enjoyed by local residents.
United States Attorney Andre Birotte and 10 volunteers from the U.S. Attorney's Office recently participated in the City of Los Angeles' Summer Night Lights Program at Lou Costello Park in Boyle Heights. Summer Night Lights (SNL) is a city-wide outreach effort designed to provide young people in high-crime areas with alternatives to violence and gang membership. On Thursday, July 21, volunteers from the United States Attorney and the volunteers from his office helped operate a "Beauty Bar" which offered fun and creative beauty options for participating girls. Aspiring skateboarders were able to show off their skills at the skate park, where Mr. Birotte and Assistant U.S. Attorney Robyn Bacon served as judges during the final skateboarding competition.
The 2011 National Crime Victims' Rights Week was observed April 10-16. The week is dedicated for communities to come together to honor crime victims and those who serve them. “During National Crime Victims' Rights Week, we renew our commitment to assisting those who have been victimized by crime and supporting those who help survivors rebuild their lives,” President Barack Obama said in a Presidential Proclamation.
On April 14, the United States Attorney's Office participated in the Orange County Victims' Rights March and Rally, which was held in Santa Ana and sponsored by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. Those inattendance included United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. (pictured below) and Assistant United States Attorney Dennise Willett, who is Chief of the Santa Ana Branch of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole visited the United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles on March 2. The second-ranking leader in the Justice Department toured the office and participated in meetings with United States Attorney André Birotte Jr., supervisory prosecutors in the office and the leaders of many federal law enforcement agencies.
The Deputy Attorney General also addressed the entire office, some of whom “attended” through video links to the office’s Santa Ana and Riverside branch offices. Mr. Cole talked about Justice Department priorities and stressed the importance of good communications between the prosecutors in the United States Attorney’s Offices and those at the Department of Justice in Washington. Mr. Cole fielded questions from staff members and addressed a wide range of issues, including developments at the Justice Department, the need for ongoing training and the continuing emphasis on diversity at all levels of the Department of Justice.
Thomas E. Perez, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, traveled to Los Angeles on March 1, 2011 to participate in a civil rights roundtable that was hosted by United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. A diverse cross-section of local civil rights lawyers and leaders from the Southern California civil rights community attended the event. Participants included representatives from the ACLU, the Los Angeles Urban League, the disabled advocates community, the LGBT community, and the Latino, Asian-Pacific, Arab-American and Muslim communities. Civil rights enforcement is a top priority of the Justice Department, and the roundtable discussion is part of our ongoing efforts to protect civil rights throughout our diverse communities.
On November 22, 2010, the United States Attorney’s Office’s conference room on the 12th floor of the federal courthouse, 312 North Spring Street, was officially dedicated to the memory of Assistant United States Attorney Daniel S. Goodman, who served as an Assistant United States Attorney for more than 20 years prior to his death, after a long illness, in September. United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. conducted the dedication in a brief, private ceremony for Dan's family. As part of the dedication, the plaque honoring Dan that is posted outside the room was unveiled to the family. Attached below (left to right) are the following pictures from the dedication ceremony: (a) the plaque; (b) Dan’s wife, Susie Goodman, and mother, standing next to the plaque; and (c) Susie Goodman and USA Andre Birotte Jr. standing next to a map inside the conference room on which Susie and Dan had posted stars to reflect each country for which Dan had handled an extradition matter.
On October 7, 2010, in connection with the United States Attorney’s Office’s recognition of National Hispanic Heritage Month, the Honorable Carlos Moreno, Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, addressed an audience of Assistant United States Attorneys and staff on “The Benefits of Diversity to the Justice System and the Role of a Prosecutor in a Diverse Society.” The event was hosted by the United States Attorney’s Office’s Diversity Committee, a committee established by United States Attorney André Birotte Jr. to promote diversity throughout the entire office. Below is a photograph of Justice Moreno taken at the event with United States Attorney Birotte and Senior Counsel to the United States Attorney Bruce Riordan.