Acting United States Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. to Step Down
Veteran Prosecutor Guided Office for Over Five Years As Acting U.S. Attorney and Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney
WASHINGTON – Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. announced today that he is resigning as Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, effective at midnight, Oct. 18, 2015. He has led the Office for six months, following nearly five years as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen, 45, a native Washingtonian, succeeded Ronald C. Machen Jr. as the head of the nation’s largest U.S. Attorney’s Office on April 1, 2015. Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen had served since July 2010 as Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Following the recommendation of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, President Obama has nominated Channing D. Phillips as the next U.S. Attorney, pending Senate confirmation.
“Over the past six months, Vince Cohen has served the District of Columbia as Acting United States Attorney with integrity and distinction,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “Through his work against violent crime, drug trafficking, and national security threats, Vince has demonstrated his commitment to service and his dedication to the people of Washington. I have been proud to serve with Vince for many years, and I'm confident that he will continue to be an exemplary leader and a champion of justice in the next phase of his already distinguished career.”
“It has been a great honor to serve the people of the District of Columbia over the past five years. There is nothing more rewarding than going into work every day with the single goal of improving the lives of the citizens of the city where I was born and raised,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen. “We have made great progress over the past five years in fighting violent crime, public corruption, and threats to our national security. There are some important cases that I wish I could see through to their conclusions, but I have complete confidence in the team at the U.S. Attorney's Office to follow through and do justice for the people of the District. Channing Phillips is a seasoned lawyer with the decades of experience that will allow him to successfully carry on the important work of the Office. In addition to spending more time with my young children, I am looking forward to taking on new professional opportunities and continuing to find ways to serve my hometown. I want to thank my colleagues at the U.S. Attorney's Office, our community partners, law enforcement partners, and everyone who has offered their support of our efforts to build a stronger and safer District of Columbia.”
During Mr. Cohen’s time as Acting U.S. Attorney, the Office secured indictments, convictions, and sentences of dozens of defendants accused of engaging in crimes such as terrorism, financial fraud, public corruption, and homicides. Mr. Cohen also placed a high priority on enforcing federal laws against banks involved in moving money illegally through the U.S. financial system on behalf of sanctioned countries and foreign entities. Under his leadership, the Office also secured millions of dollars from companies accused of violating the False Claims Act and cheating American taxpayers by overbilling the federal government. He helped create and expand the Office’s Cyber Unit to combat cyber-based crimes. Mr. Cohen also played an integral role in the creation of the first federal Conviction Integrity Unit in a United States Attorney’s Office. He has emphasized the importance of community outreach, hosting a youth summit and other events, including visits to homeless shelters, in which he warned of the dangers of using synthetic cannabinoids.
As Acting U.S. Attorney, Mr. Cohen was appointed by Attorney General Lynch as a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a small group of U.S. Attorneys from across the country who provide advice and counsel to the Attorney General on policy, management, and operational issues. Mr. Cohen also worked in partnership with a wide variety of law enforcement and regulatory agencies that investigate financial matters, including the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
National Security: Mr. Cohen supervised the Office’s work on the ongoing case against Ahmed Abu Khatallah for his alleged participation in the 2012 attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans. Among other cases, he oversaw work on the prosecution of a dual Dutch-Turkish national, who was extradited to the United States in July 2015 to face terrorism charges stemming from his alleged support of a designated foreign terrorist organization and the prosecution of a Mexican national extradited to the United States last month to face charges in the murder of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Special Agent and the attempted murder of another.
Fraud and Public Corruption: For the past several years, Mr. Cohen has led an internal task force focused on local public corruption matters. He helped supervise the work that led to the convictions of three members of the District of Columbia Council and the Chief of Staff to a fourth member of the Council. In addition, he has helped manage the Office’s work leading to the prosecution of eight individuals for wrongdoing associated with the 2010 election for Mayor of the District of Columbia. Under Mr. Cohen’s leadership, the Office continued work on the investigation into the largest domestic bribery and bid-rigging scheme in the history of federal contracting cases. Overall, participants in the scheme stole over $30 million in government money through fictitious invoices and conspired to steer a nearly $1 billion government contract to a favored government contractor. The Office also obtained a 64-month prison sentence in the case of a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer, who accepted over $3 million in bribes to process visas for non-immigrants seeking entry into the United States; a 13-year sentence for a man who operated a $28 million Ponzi scheme; a 17-year sentence for a businessman who took part in an investment fraud scheme that led to over $13 million in losses for investors, and a 46-month sentence for a man who participated in a massive identify theft and tax fraud scheme involving the filing of fraudulent income tax returns seeking over $2.5 million in refunds. Overall, since 2010, under Mr. Cohen’s leadership, more than 150 people have been found guilty or pled guilty to federal corruption charges.
Financial Recoveries: As Acting U.S. Attorney, and earlier in partnership with Mr. Machen, Mr. Cohen sharpened the Office’s focus on financial recoveries, generating over $2.8 billion for the federal government over the last five and a half years through civil and criminal collections and asset forfeiture. In one such case, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a formal judgment in May 2015 that required Schlumberger Oilfield Holdings Ltd. (SOHL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Schlumberger Ltd., to pay a $232,708,356 penalty to the United States for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) by willfully facilitating illegal transactions and engaging in trade with Iran and Sudan.
Under Mr. Cohen’s leadership, the Office’s Civil Division has expanded its work on affirmative civil enforcement actions. A particular focus has been the False Claims Act. The Office now has 159 active cases, including over 40 involving health care fraud. Mr. Cohen has built a strong relationship with the qui tam community by hosting a conference of the Relator’s bar and participating in similar conferences and forums. The Office now has the fourth-highest number of qui tam cases in the country.
For example, in April 2015, two cardiovascular laboratories agreed to pay $48.5 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by paying remuneration to physicians in exchange for patient referrals and billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary testing. Another company and its principals agreed in July 2015 to pay the government $7.8 million to resolve allegations that they made false statements to obtain contracts through a Small Business Administration program.
Cyber-crime: Mr. Cohen has focused his attention on expanding the Cyber Unit to attack cyber-crimes throughout the country and internationally. The Unit investigates and prosecutes a wide variety of cyber-crimes and advises and assists other parts of the Office with issues related to electronic, computer and Internet-based evidence and legal process. In one recent case, for example, a former employee of the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is accused of an attempted e-mail spear-phishing attack that targeted government employee e-mail accounts.
Violent Crime: As Acting U.S. Attorney, Mr. Cohen has focused heavily on strategies to combat violent crime, coordinating a multi-faceted approach with the Metropolitan Police Department and federal law enforcement partners. He has helped coordinate efforts to devote more federal resources to assisting MPD in dealing with this problem, working closely with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, and other agencies. During his leadership, Mr. Cohen led the Office’s work to deal with the public safety and health problems stemming from the emergence of synthetic cannabinoids. At his direction, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has launched community education sessions in which prosecutors and D.C. drug prevention experts talk about the dangers of these substances at various locations throughout the District of Columbia. On the enforcement front, the Office is prosecuting sellers of synthetic cannabinoids, and filed federal charges against two men after one of the biggest seizures to date in the District of Columbia.
Community Outreach: Mr. Cohen has been a champion of community outreach throughout his time at the Office, and he led the fifth annual youth summit in June 2015 attended by hundreds of teenagers at the Friendship Collegiate Academy in Northeast Washington. He has spoken at town halls and other neighborhood events. Internally, Mr. Cohen has continued his work on recruiting and diversity. He spoke at the LGBT Bar’s annual conference in Chicago and attended the annual conferences of the National Bar Association and the Hispanic National Bar Association. In addition, he delivered the keynote address in July 2015 at the gala for the conference of the National Black Prosecutors Association. As the head of the Office’s hiring committee, Mr. Cohen was responsible for the hiring of over 150 Assistant U.S. Attorneys, many of whom are from diverse backgrounds.
Mr. Cohen graduated with honors from Syracuse University in 1992 and obtained his juris doctorate from Syracuse University School of Law in 1995. He first joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1997 following his hiring by then-U.S. Attorney Eric Holder. Mr. Cohen handled criminal and civil matters until 2003, when he left the Office for private practice.
In private practice, Mr. Cohen first worked at Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells), specializing in white-collar criminal litigation and employment law. Mr. Cohen later became a partner at Schertler & Onorato, where his practice included the representation of individuals and corporations in all aspects of criminal and civil litigation.