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Press Release

U.S. Attorney General Recognizes District Prosecutors

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

WASHINGTON – Assistant United States Attorneys Jean M. Hobler and Lee S. Bickley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California were two of 243 members of the Department of Justice nationwide recognized by Attorney General Eric Holder and Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA) Director Monty Wilkinson at the 30th annual Director’s Awards Ceremony today in Washington D.C.

The Eastern District of California is one of 44 federal districts represented at the ceremony, which was held in the Great Hall at the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. The awards recognize outstanding achievements by employees of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices.

In his prepared remarks to awardees, Attorney General Holder said, “Locally, nationally, and internationally, you represent the very best that this Department has to offer. Your work embodies our ongoing commitment — not merely to win cases, but to do justice; to protect our fellow citizens from crime, violence, and terrorism; to empower the most vulnerable among us; and to uphold the rule of law.”

EOUSA Director Monty Wilkinson echoed those sentiments, saying to the recipients, “You have persevered, and remained focused and motivated — achieving remarkable results in work that makes a difference in the lives of citizens across our great country. The vast scope of your collective accomplishments is nothing short of exceptional.”

Jean Hobler and Lee Bickley each received the Director’s Award for Superior Performance by an Assistant United States Attorney for their outstanding work in prosecuting Anthony Vassallo’s Ponzi scheme that was one of the largest in the district’s history. Vassallo took in over $80 million of investor funds and lost over $40 million of those funds. They were assigned this case after the departure of the initiating Assistant United States Attorney and the reassignment or retirement of all the original case agents. Nevertheless, Assistant United States Attorneys Hobler and Bickley and new agents prepared for trial in this case involving dozens of feeder investment funds and over 400 individual victims. In May 2012, Bickley successfully moved to have Vassallo’s pretrial release revoked, three years after he was charged, to the great relief of Vassallo’s victims. Hobler led the plea negotiations, which were protracted and complex. Shortly before trial, and four years after he was charged, with his third defense attorney and having fought every suggestion he had committed a crime, on February 1, 2013, Vassallo pleaded guilty. On June 21, 2013, Vassallo was sentenced to 16 years in prison and was later ordered to pay over $43 million in restitution to his victims. Co-conspirator Kenneth Kenitzer pleaded guilty in a related case and on February 14, 2014, was sentenced to six years in prison.

“Prosecuting complex financial crimes has been a priority for this office, and it is a job we have been doing well,” said U.S. Attorney Wagner. “As the Attorney General recognized today, Jean Hobler and Lee Bickley have done outstanding work, both in the prosecution of a huge Ponzi scheme and in their handling of many other cases in this district. Their colleagues in this office are proud of them.”

EOUSA provides oversight, general executive assistance, and direction to the 94 United States Attorneys’ offices around the country. For more information on EOUSA and its mission, visit

Updated April 8, 2015