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Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 29, 2016

Colorado United States Attorney John Walsh to Step Down Following Six Years of Service

Walsh, the longest serving Colorado U.S. Attorney since the 1980s, also served as Chair of the Attorney General's Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys

DENVER – After six years of service, United States Attorney John Walsh today announced plans to step down from his position effective midnight on Wednesday, August 10, 2016.  Over those six years, U.S. Attorney Walsh has been a Colorado and national prosecutorial leader and an aggressive advocate of building strong relationships between federal, state and local law enforcement and between law enforcement and the community.  He was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama and confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate, entering on duty August 10, 2010.  He is the longest serving U.S. Attorney since the 1980s, and among the longest serving U.S. Attorneys in Colorado history.

 “The men and women of the Colorado United States Attorney’s Office, along with their federal law enforcement partners, are unsung heroes who work quietly, fiercely and round-the-clock to do justice and to protect the people of the United States and of Colorado,”  said U.S. Attorney Walsh.  “The opportunity to work with these dedicated and talented professionals, and to work on their behalf to help further their great mission for our country and our wonderful state, has been the greatest professional honor of my life.   And it has been an unexpected additional honor – for which my gratitude will be undying -- to have been given the chance by the Attorney General to work nationally as chair of her advisory committee on behalf of the unsung heroes in U.S. Attorneys’ Offices all over the country who have devoted themselves to that same great task.”

“U.S. Attorney John Walsh has served the people of the District of Colorado and the entire nation with extraordinary distinction,” said Attorney General Loretta Lynch.  “For the past six years, John has protected our civil liberties, defended our national security, and aggressively and successfully prosecuted organized crime, drug cartels and gang violence.  He played a key leadership role on the team that won a landmark $7 billion settlement against Citibank, securing millions for defrauded consumers in the largest settlement in the history of the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s office, and one of the largest settlements in the Justice Department’s history.  He served as a co-chair of the department’s Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group, where he led efforts to root out fraud and abuse and hold institutions accountable for the kinds of misleading lending practices that helped cause the 2008 financial crisis. And he has been an outstanding leader of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee – lending valuable insight and advice to the Justice Department as a whole.  The people of Colorado, and the country, are safer thanks to John’s keen judgment, deep empathy, and unwavering fidelity to justice.  I want to thank John for his exemplary service, and I look forward to all that he will accomplish in the years to come.” 

As United States Attorney, Walsh was responsible for overseeing the work of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado, which represents the United States in virtually all court matters, criminal or civil, in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, and in cases from that Court before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.  These matters included criminal prosecutions of federal crimes, civil representation of the United States seeking damages and penalties against law violators, as well as representation of federal government agencies that have been sued.  During Walsh’s tenure, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, working both on its own cases and with the Department of Justice and other U.S. Attorney’s Offices, concluded the largest federal penalty cases in Colorado’s history, collecting literally billions of dollars on behalf of American taxpayers and the United States Treasury. 

A Commitment to Federal Partnership with State and Local Law Enforcement

During Mr. Walsh’s tenure, the United States Attorney’s Office redoubled its commitment to fostering a strong working relationship between federal law enforcement and state and local law enforcement, including:

  • Working with the U.S. District Court, to expand federal law enforcement presence in Grand Junction and Durango, and to establish federal grand juries in both cities;

  • Bringing federal law enforcement resources and support to local law enforcement in Southern Colorado, including Pueblo, on key law enforcement challenges;

  • Helping to create a close partnership with Denver, Aurora, Lakewood and other Metro Area law enforcement agencies to create and support the Crime Gun Intelligence Center using cutting edge technology to identify, investigate, arrest and prosecute shooters;

  • Expanding the Crime Gun Intelligence Center concept to Southern Colorado; and

  • Helping to provide close federal support of local law enforcement efforts in cases of mass violence, including the Aurora Theater shooting and Planned Parenthood shooting.

A Commitment to Community Engagement and Outreach

Working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office team, U.S. Attorney Walsh brought an impassioned commitment to fostering law enforcement community engagement and outreach on many levels, including:

  • In the wake of the Mother Emanuel Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, creating and sponsoring seminars around the state on “Protecting Houses of Worship,” attended by over 1,000 faith community leaders and state and local government and law enforcement leaders;

  • Engaging in strong outreach efforts to address and combat hate crimes and civil rights violations against Colorado’s Muslim community and Sikh community;

  • Forging a close partnership with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe and federal law enforcement to successfully reduce violent crime rates and other crimes on Colorado’s two Indian reservations; and

  • Engaging in extensive outreach to the Latino and Spanish-speaking communities of Colorado; a fluent Spanish speaker, Walsh frequently made presentations to Spanish-speaking audiences, gave interviews to Spanish language media, and in 2014 joined with the Colorado AG’s office in entering into an agreement with the Mexican Consulate in Denver to protect the rights of Mexican nationals who are the victims of crime in Colorado.

A National Role for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado

Mr. Walsh has been a dedicated advocate for Department of Justice and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices initiatives nation-wide and has worked to bring the great work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado into the national limelight.   Those efforts have included:

  • Serving as one of five national co-chairs appointed by the President to oversee the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities investigations dating from the country’s financial crisis, which included an unprecedented settlement with Citibank settlement of $7 billion – the largest settlement in the history of the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, and at the time, the largest federal civil bank penalty in the nation’s history;

  • Supporting and developing a strong national security and anti-terrorism program, resulting in the prosecution of Shannon Conley and other matters; and

  • Navigating the complex and conflicting legal environment created by Colorado voters’ approval of marijuana legalization under state law, in partnership with Colorado State government and local law enforcement, with a commitment to protecting public safety.

In this role, Walsh has testified before both Senate and House Committees.  He also has participated in White House events on multiple occasions, including a panel discussion in October 2015 with President Obama regarding bi-partisan efforts to reform the federal criminal justice system.  In addition, on behalf of the Department, he conducted numerous interviews as a national Department representative with national news organizations.

In January 2015, then-Attorney General Eric Holder appointed Mr. Walsh to serve as Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, stepping into the vacancy left by Loretta Lynch after she was nominated and then confirmed as Attorney General of the United States.  In that capacity, he played a key leadership role among U.S. Attorneys nationally on a broad array of issues, including financial crimes, national security, the evolving marijuana landscape, as well as civil rights and anti-hate crime efforts, among others.

Notable Federal Criminal Prosecutions

These six years were also marked by the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s prosecution of notable high profile federal criminal cases.  Those cases include:

  • The Harold Henthorn murder case in Rocky Mountain National Park.

  • The war-crimes related immigration case against Kefelegn Alemu Worku, who was responsible for killings during Ethiopia’s “Red Terror.”

  • National Security related cases, including the case against Shannon Conley, and pending cases involving allegations of material support todesignated terrorist organizations, as well as the investigation and response to the case of three high school students who attempted to travel to Syria.

  • Powerful anti-gang and anti-gun violence prosecutions in the Denver Metro Area, Colorado Springs and Pueblo in support of state and local law enforcement.

  • Dozens of organized crime and cartel-related drug trafficking prosecutions, including:

  • The indictment of 80 people in Metro Denver in Operation Double Trouble, where the defendants were indicted following two separate investigations into the distribution of cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine.Multiple weapons and nearly half a million in cash were seized.This was one of the largest drug busts in Colorado history.

  • The indictment of 54 defendants involved in the Gangster Disciples and the Gonzales-Cepeva and Quintero drug-trafficking organizations, for illegally distributing cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana;

  • Operation Chump Change, which resulted in multiple state and federal indictments of a large heroin distribution organization and the seizure of over 250 pounds of brown heroin, 25 pounds of cocaine and multiple vehicles;

  • Operation Dark Angel, which resulted in the federal indictment of 22 methamphetamine traffickers and money launderers; and

  • Operation Black Rhino, a case where 23 people from two related drug trafficking organizations were indicted for distributing cocaine and methamphetamine.

  • The prosecution of the owners of Jensen Farms for distributing cantaloupe contaminated with listeria bacteria, which was responsible for dozens of deaths nationally.

  • Cases against nurses stealing drugs from hospitals for their own use, including the cases against Kristen Parker and Rocky Allen.

  • Cases involving the detonation of improvised explosive devices, including cases involving the NAACP office in Colorado Springs, Southwest Plaza Mall and the Colorado Mills shopping mall.

  • Cyber-intrusion cases, including a denial of service attack on Larimer County Government as well as the hacking of Photobucket.

  • Environmental prosecutions, including the case against executives of Executive Recycling, who illegally shipped hazardous electronic waste to China, while claiming to recycle it.

  • Cases against doctors overprescribing opioid drugs, fueling addiction and overdose deaths of their patients.

  • Complex financial and economic crime cases, including Ponzi schemes, mortgage fraud and investment fraud, as well as defrauding the IRS, including the Philip Lockmiller case in Grand Junction.

  • Illegal distribution of “Spice” and other counterfeit drugs and diet supplements manufactured oversees, in countries including China.

  • A broad range of sophisticated investigations and prosecutions of child exploitation cases, including production and/or possession of child pornography.

  • Prosecution of assaults and murders committed by inmates at Colorado’s many federal prisons, including the ADMAX facility at Florence, Colorado.

Notable Civil Enforcement Actions

            Since 2010, the United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado established itself as one of the premier affirmative civil enforcement offices in the country.  Working with the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, and in partnership with other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office investigation, litigated and resolved many civil enforcement matters of national significance, recovering billions of dollars on behalf of the United States and victims of illegal conduct.  Some of the more significant civil enforcement victories include the following cases:

  • Investigation, negotiation and resolution of claims that the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers engaged in widespread abuses when servicing mortgages, such as by using thousands of “robo-signed” affidavits in foreclosure proceedings, culminating in a 2012 landmark $25 billion agreement;

  • Investigation, negotiation and resolution of claims against GlaxoSmithKline that it failed to report safety data and used unlawful practices to promote prescription drugs such as Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Advair, resulting in a $3 billion settlement, the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history;

  • Investigation, negotiation and resolution of claims against Citibank it engaged in fraud in securitizing and selling thousands of home mortgages leading up to the 2008 global financial crisis, resulting in a $7 billion settlement that included a record-setting $4 billion cash penalty, and relief for consumers valued at $2.5 billion;

  • Investigation, negotiation and resolution of claims against , one of the nation’s largest dialysis providers, resulting in a global resolution totaling nearly $400 million to resolve claims that it had provided unlawful kickbacks to doctors;

  • Investigation, negotiation and resolution of claims against MetLife ($123 million) and underwrote home mortgages insured by HUD despite knowing that the mortgages failed to meet HUD’s requirements; and

  • Investigation, litigation and resolution of claims against Evercare Hospice and Palliative Care to resolve claims that it obtained Medicare reimbursement for hospice care even though it knew the patients were not terminally ill, resulting in settlement of $18 million.

In addition, the United States Attorney’s Office has greatly expanded the effectiveness of its efforts to collect restitution, fines and penalties from criminal defendants and civil violators.   In the six years from 2005 to 2010, criminal collections totaled $19,759.148.68.  In the six years since, 2011 to 2016 (to date -- partial year), criminal collections have totaled $59,885,634.79, over three times greater.  Moreover, the United States Attorney’s Office’s Financial Litigation Unit has successfully pursued several sophisticated enforcement actions that were unprecedented in this office, including a fraudulent conveyance action, writs of execution for personal and real property, and nominee liens. These successes have resulted in the collection of millions of additional dollars for American taxpayers.

National Awards for Work of U.S. Attorney’s Office

As a result of these and other cases, since August 2010, the Department of Justice has awarded members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado with an unprecedented number of Department awards, including 11 Attorney General’s Awards (awarded for cases of national significance to the Department and the United States) and 21 Director’s Awards (awarded for cases of national significance among the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices).

Budget and Staffing Challenges Addressed

In managing the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Walsh worked diligently to help weather years of budget restrictions, including budget “sequestration,” and extended multi-year hiring freeze and a government shutdown that in combination left the U.S. Attorney’s Office down nearly 20 percent in staff.  In 2014 to 2016, he worked to ensure the office bounced back and successfully returned to full strength.

* * *

            Mr. Walsh plans to return to the private practice of law in Denver after he steps down.

 

First Assistant Bob Troyer will become the Acting U.S. Attorney on Mr. Walsh’s departure.  

Component(s): 
Updated July 29, 2016