U.S. Attorney's Office Honors 170 Officers and Agents For Outstanding Work in Law Enforcement
Honorees Represent Over 20 Agencies, Worked on Dozens of Cases
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Attorney’s Office today honored about 170 law enforcement officers, agents, and investigators for their outstanding work on dozens of cases that led to the convictions of murderers, sex offenders, gang members, fraudsters, and other criminals. The event took place at the Great Hall of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building.
U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said the Office’s 34th Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony recognized the exceptional work performed by honorees on a wide variety of investigations, including those involving violent crimes, narcotics trafficking, fraud and public corruption, and national security matters. The efforts reflect the courage and commitment demonstrated on a daily basis by law enforcement on behalf of the community.
“Thousands of law enforcement officers work long and unpredictable hours to protect the citizens of the District of Columbia from threats at home and overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Phillips. “Their dedication to public service and justice inspires those of us who work with them on a daily basis. Today’s ceremony is a way to express our appreciation for their work.”
The ceremony honored the achievements of people from 23 agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), the Metro Transit Police Department, the Prince George’s County, Md. Police Department and other partners. Their efforts led to convictions in more than 50 cases that had an impact locally, nationally, and internationally.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office recognized the detective work performed by the Metropolitan Police Department in the investigation into the July 4, 2013 murder of 22-year-old Omar Sykes, a student at Howard University. Mr. Sykes was killed and another Howard University student was attacked in a botched attempted armed robbery in the 700 block of Fairmont Street NW. The MPD investigation led to the arrest of a man who pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder while armed and was sentenced to 28 ½ years in prison.
Another team of MPD detectives and an evidence technician was honored for work on the investigation into the August 2011 murder of 91-year-old Viola Drath at her home in Georgetown. Their efforts led to the arrest and prosecution of Ms. Drath’s husband, Albrecht Muth, who had attempted to orchestrate the crime scene in an effort to make it look like his wife died of natural causes. MPD worked tirelessly to prove that Muth had indeed strangled his wife and then positioned her body to make it appear as if she fell in the bathroom and struck her head on the tub. Muth was found guilty in 2014 of first-degree (premeditated) murder with the aggravating circumstances that the murder was especially heinous, cruel, and inflicted on a vulnerable victim. He is serving decades in prison for the crime.
The honorees also included a team from the Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that investigated a drive-by shooting that wounded 13 people in March 2013 on North Capitol Street. The violence stemmed from a rivalry between two groups of people that flared up at a nearby nightclub. Gunmen fired a total of 38 shots from two separate cars into a crowd of people walking back to their homes or cars at the Tyler House neighborhood or Sursum Corda neighborhood. Ultimately, 14 individuals were convicted of crimes related to the mass shootings. During this investigation, several other violent crimes were closed, along with over 50 commercial burglaries.
The ceremony also recognized a team from MPD and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that conducted an extensive investigation into activities of MS-13 in the Washington, D.C. area. Ultimately, 20 MS-13 members were charged with racketeering and related offenses in U.S. District Court. The defendants were charged with four murders, two attempted murders, and numerous other crimes, including kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking, extortion, and obstruction of justice. Nearly all pleaded guilty to charges. Three MS-13 leaders went to trial and were found guilty of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity, murder and other charges. Two of the three leaders were sentenced last year to life in prison and the other was sentenced to a 30-year term.
Additionally, three members of the Metro Transit Police Department were honored for their work leading to the arrest and conviction of a man who stabbed a transgender girl in July 2014 while she was on board a Metrorail train. The victim, 15, was attacked in the late afternoon while on a Green Line train approaching the Fort Totten Metro station in Northeast Washington Her attacker pleaded guilty to a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon, with a hate crime enhancement, and he was subsequently sentenced to 56 months in prison.
The ceremony also recognized a team from the FBI’s Washington Field Office that investigated a Ponzi scheme that cost investors approximately $28.6 million. The scheme collapsed, victimizing more than 150 people. The FBI’s work led to the arrest and prosecution of a Maryland man who pled guilty to securities fraud. He is serving a 28 ½-year prison term.
On the international front, a team from the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division was honored for its work on the investigation of the Sept. 16, 2007, shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq, that resulted in the killing of 14 unarmed civilians and the wounding of numerous others. Four Blackwater USA security contractors were found guilty in 2014, following a 10-week trial, of charges stemming from the shootings. The crime scene was large and the investigation required much international travel, both by witnesses and investigators. A total of 71 witnesses, including 30 from Iraq, testified at the trial, representing the largest group of foreign witnesses ever to travel to the United States for a criminal trial.