The U.S. Attorney's Criminal Division is responsible for enforcing federal criminal laws in the District of Idaho. The Division includes prosecutors in the main office in Boise and in the Pocatello and Coeur d'Alene branch offices. The Assistants United States Attorney (AUSAs) who comprise the Division bring a wealth of experience in the law at all levels.
When a federal crime is committed, federal, state or local law enforcement agencies may conduct the initial investigation. If the investigation indicates a potentially prosecutable federal felony offense, they refer the case to the U.S. Attorney and an AUSA is assigned. The AUSA works closely with the investigating agency and, with the guidance of the U.S. Attorney, decides whether to present the case to a grand jury. Unlike state prosecutions, all federal felony prosecutions must go through a grand jury, which decides whether to charge the individual or individuals. A federal charge is called a bill of indictment. Once a case has been indicted by a grand jury the AUSA is responsible for all stages of the prosecution, including plea agreements, trials, sentencing hearings and appeals.
The U.S. Attorney General has established the following four priorities for the United States Department of Justice: (1) protecting Americans from national security threats; (2) protecting Americans from violent crime; (3) protecting Americans from financial fraud; and (4) protecting the most vulnerable members of our society. In connection with those national priorities, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson has established the following local criminal priorities to focus criminal AUSA resources:
Crimes in Indian Country
Crimes Against Children
Drug Trafficking, and the "Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF)"
Federal Lands and the Environment
Gun and Gang Violence in Idaho, called "Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN)"
The U.S. Attorney recognizes that strong deterrence is needed to prevent individuals and entities from defrauding the people of Idaho and weakening its institutions and economy. The U.S. Attorney’s Office aggressively pursues fraud investigations that have a federal nexus, focusing particularly on bankruptcy, corporate, financial institution, health care and benefits fraud. Federal prosecutors work closely with federal, state and local fraud investigators to ensure that those who use a pen to commit a crime face stiff penalties just as surely as those who use a gun. Prosecutors place particular emphasis on obtaining restitution, or repayment, for those who have been defrauded. The office partners with the Social Security Administration to employee a Special AUSA who focuses on prosecuting those engaged in fraud to obtain Social Security benefits.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Typically, the perpetrator assumes the good name and credit of a victim in order to steal money, property and services from other unsuspecting victims. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has taken an aggressive approach to prosecuting identity theft, using new federal laws that impose substantial penalties for such crimes. With the advent of the Internet and the access it provides to vast stores of identity information, federal law enforcement is often best situated to investigate and prosecute these complex crimes. The office works closely with its state and local counterparts to protect Idaho citizens.
Idaho has five Indian Reservations within its borders: the Shosone-Bannock tribes in eastern Idaho; Shoshone-Paiute tribes on the Idaho-Nevada border; the Nez Perce tribe in north central Idaho; and the Coeur d'Alene and Kootenai tribes in the Panhandle. The U.S. Attorney's Office has significant responsibility to work with these tribal nations to promote and protect public safety in Indian Country. The office works hard to foster a respectful and harmonious relationship with the Tribes and tribal members. To this end, in 2011, U.S. Attorney Olson implemented her Indian Country Community Safety Strategy, Idaho’s first comprehensive strategy for promoting and protecting public safety in Indian Country.
Preventing terrorist attacks remains the Department of Justice’s top priority. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has taken every step to ensure that Idahoans are protected from terrorists. The office has one AUSA dedicated to handling terrorism investigations and prosecutions. Several other AUSAs are trained and prepared to handle any terrorism prosecution, should the need arise. The office leads Idaho’s "Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC)" comprised of representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement and security agencies. The Idaho ATAC coordinates anti-terrorism initiatives, initiates training programs and facilitates information sharing.
Ensuring that every American’s constitutional rights are protected is a top priority for U.S. Attorney Olson. The office works closely with federal, state and local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, official misconduct, damage to religious property, interference with access to reproductive health services, interference with housing rights and human trafficking. The newest federal civil rights law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, extends federal hate crime protections to victims of violence based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. U.S. Attorney Olson has also focused efforts on identifying and investigating human trafficking cases through her human trafficking working group and community outreach efforts.
Victimization of children affects not only the children themselves but also their families, communities and society at large. Because of their legal, physical and social vulnerabilities, children are sometimes subjected to physical or sexual abuse. Many of the people who prey on children are not first-time offenders, but rather serial offenders who target children.
In general, the U.S. Attorney's Office gets involved when children are victimized in Indian Country, when the abuser crosses state lines, or when the crime involves child pornography sent through the mail or via the Internet. The office works closely with Idaho’s Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) task force, comprised of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, to investigate and prosecute international and national child pornography rings.
The U.S. Attorney's Office plays an important role in reducing drug trafficking and related violence by identifying, disrupting, and dismantling regional drug trafficking rings. It focuses on filling gaps where local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to keep pace with myriad regional and international organizations trafficking drugs in Idaho. By coordinating with state and local agencies through the DEA-led Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force, the Office has led complex investigations that have successfully targeted the leaders and organizers of large regional, national and international drug networks. The office focuses prosecutions on methamphetamine, spice, public lands marijuana grows and prescription drug trafficking.
Sixty-two percent of Idaho is federal land. The U.S. Attorney’s Office works hand-in-hand with federal land management agencies to protect Idaho’s public lands from criminal activity. The office handles misdemeanor citations, commonly called “CVBs,” issued by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Army Corps of Engineers. The office prosecutes offenders who (1) damage or, without permission, take resources from public lands; (2) unlawfully take, or “poach” protected wildlife; and (3) commit environmental crimes.
The U.S. Attorney's Office’s "Project Safe Neighborhoods" program seeks to reduce gun violence in Idaho by targeting violent criminal offenders who carry or use guns to commit crimes. The effectiveness of PSN is based on the ability of federal, state and local agencies to cooperate in a unified offensive. PSN prosecutions send a clear message to anyone who illegally uses or possesses a gun that "gun crime means hard time" in the District of Idaho.
The office prosecutes gang crime with a federal nexus as part of its violent crime strategy. This strategy includes housing Idaho’s gang SAUSA, a federally-deputized Canyon County deputy prosecutor, devoted to working with the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crimes Task Force, ATF and other state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute violent offenders, gang members and organizations. In northern Idaho, AUSAs support the North Idaho Violent Crimes Task Force in seeking out and prosecuting violent offenders. And, in eastern Idaho, the U.S. Attorney’s Office is leading efforts to target violent gangs and gang members for federal prosecution.
The U.S. Attorney's Office prosecutes immigration crimes, focusing its efforts on fraud and serious illegal re-entry cases. Immigration fraud takes on many forms, including marriage, passport and “notario” fraud, as well as identity theft. The office also prosecutes criminal aliens in Idaho who have illegally re-entered the United States without permission after being ordered deported, and who pose the greatest risk to public safety by committing new crimes.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office houses the Asset Forfeiture Unit to assist federal prosecutors in recovering the proceeds of crime. Federal laws require that people convicted of crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, or terrorism must forfeit both their profits and the equipment they used to commit the crimes. By divesting convicted criminals of the profits of their crimes, as well as the instrumentalities used to commit their crimes, the office seeks to make crime unprofitable. Forfeited assets can be used to help fund federal, state and local law enforcement activities and to repay the victims of crime.