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Criminal Division

The Criminal Division is the largest division in the office. Assistant United States Attorneys investigate and prosecute cases arising from a vast array of criminal activity. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Criminal Division assumed new responsibilities in the fight against terrorism, using criminal law tools to detect, disrupt, and incapacitate terrorists and terrorist supporters. The Criminal Division is divided into eight sections: Violent Crime and National Security; Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs; Complex Frauds; Organized Crime and Drugs; Public Integrity and Special Matters; Cyber and Intellectual Property Crime; General Crimes; and Asset Foreiture. Criminal Appeals and the Victim-Witness program serve the division as a whole.

Major Crimes

The United States Attorney’s Office’s highest priority is to prevent, disrupt, and defeat international and domestic terrorist operations before they occur, within this district and elsewhere. Our other priorities include investigation and prosecution of the illegal export of military and dual-use technologies, violent street gangs/organized crime, sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, civil rights violations, armed career criminals, arson and explosives offenses, serial armed bank and commercial robberies, kidnapping offenses, illegal aliens previously convicted of aggravated felonies, possession of firearms by convicted felons, firearms trafficking and illegal possession of sawed-off shotguns and machine guns. The Assistant United States Attorneys in this section are involved in a wide variety of prosecutions and initiatives including the following:

National Security & Counter-Proliferation Matters

The district’s Anti-Terrorism Advisory Council (ATAC) and Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) focuses its efforts on preventing terrorism and prosecuting terrorism related crimes. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office and its law enforcement partners aggressively investigate and prosecute Export Control Act violations, including the illegal export of military and dual-use technologies. Recent prosecutions include:

Gang Cases & the Organized Crime Strike Force

Strike Force enforcement in the Northern District of Georgia is sometimes directed against traditional organized crime. In more recent years, however, most organized crime prosecutions have been brought against street gangs operating in the district. Gang crimes are prosecuted by attorneys in both the Major Crimes section and the Narcotics section, but are coordinated by the Major Crimes Section. Gang prosecutions have resulted in lengthy prison sentences for gang members of several different gangs, including MS-13, 18th Street and Sur-13.  Recent prosecutions include:

Human Trafficking

This office has a longstanding commitment to investigating and prosecuting those who engage in human trafficking by enslaving individuals in forced employment or the illegal sex trade. To more effectively prosecute such crimes, the United States Attorney’s Office partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement, and many non-governmental organizations. This coalition of federal prosecutors, law enforcement agencies, and community organizations not only endeavors to increase prosecutions of these crimes, but also to educate the public about these offenses so that victims may be identified more readily and assisted in rebuilding their lives.  In furtherance of these goals, in 2011 the U. S. Attorney’s office and other coalition members hosted the Human Trafficking Summit attended by over four hundred victims, service providers, law enforcement officers and community leaders.  Also in 2011, Atlanta was selected as one of only six cities nationwide to participate in the Federal Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams pilot program, which is designed to enhance outreach, coordination, and proactive case identification by federal, state, and local law enforcement officials involved in the investigation and prosecution of forced labor and sex trafficking crimes. The United States Attorney’s Office has aggressively sought to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Recent prosecutions include:

Civil Rights Violations

Civil Rights cases typically involve situations when a person in a position of authority in state, local, or federal government uses his office to deprive another individual of his civil rights. The U.S. Attorney's Office is also actively involved in investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, where a citizen has been victimized because of his/her race, gender, religion, national orientation, or sexual orientation.

Sexual Exploitation of Children/Project Safe Childhood

In February 2006, the Attorney General launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse. In May 2011, Project Safe Childhood was expanded to encompass all federal crimes involving sexual exploitation of a minor, whether or not they involve the internet.  The expanded initiative encompasses the commercial sexual exploitation of children, including child prostitution, the extraterritorial exploitation of children, and the prosecution of unregistered sex offenders, among other crimes.  Led by the United States Attorney's Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. Recent prosecutions include:


Violent Repeat Offenders

Prosecutions of Violent Criminals

This initiative brings community leaders and law enforcement together to identify communities with gang and gun-related crime problems and to develop strategies to prevent such crimes and aggressively prosecute those who commit them.  The enforcement prong of the U.S. Attorney’s anti-violence strategy is designed to reduce violence by focusing law enforcement resources on the most dangerous individuals in the district's most violent communities, with a focus on violent repeat offenders, to permanently dismantle and disrupt violent organizations, and to stem the flow of firearms by investigating and prosecuting firearms traffickers. In conjunction with its law enforcement and community partners, the U.S. Attorney’s office has developed a prisoner reentry program designed to reduce the number of repeat offenders in the areas of Atlanta most plagued by violent crime.  To educate young people about the justice system and to foster a positive image of law enforcement, in 2011 the U.S. Attorney’s office hosted a Youth Justice Summit  that was attended by 120 students from at-risk neighborhoods.  The U.S. Attorney’s office will continue its crime-prevention efforts by hosting a series of outreach events, including forums with community advocacy organizations and other community stakeholders, to discuss community issues and crime reduction and prevention initiatives.

Other Notable Cases:

Transnational Organized Crime and Narcotics

The Transnational Organized Crime and Narcotics (TOCN) section was established to target and dismantle the international criminal organizations operating within the United States. Our Assistant United States Attorneys work together with a variety of federal investigative agents and deputized state and local officers, using the most powerful and sophisticated investigative tools and techniques, including court-authorized wiretaps, to attack these organizations. TOCN focuses primarily on prosecuting international cartels that import illegal drugs from other countries and use Atlanta as a distribution and money-laundering hub for the eastern United States (these narcotics cases often are designated as “Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force” (OCDETF) prosecutions, triggering special DOJ resourcing and funding).   TOCN also targets criminal organizations based in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East that engage in other types of economic and violent criminal activity within our district.  TOCN prosecutions are designed to eliminate entire organizations, including the international leadership structure and financial networks involved in transnational crime. Investigations usually span many months and result in the arrest and indictment of many defendants.

TOCN also includes Special Assistant United States Attorneys (SAUSAs), who are designated to work with the Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) task force. This task force consists of federal and local drug agents who focus on identifying and arresting the most prolific regional drug traffickers operating in Barrow, Bartow, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Henry counties, which contain the highest concentration of large-scale drug traffickers in the district.

In March 2007, members of the OCDETF law enforcement agencies began operating out of the “David G. Wilhelm Atlanta OCDETF Strike Force,” a special cooperative drug task force based in DeKalb County and named after the slain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC). The Strike Force is designed to investigate and prosecute the highest-level members of international drug cartels that have operations in metro Atlanta and throughout the United States. The Strike Force coordinates efforts with other OCDETF Strike Forces located throughout the country, as well as investigative agents operating throughout the world.

TOCN has responded to the nationwide prescription pill abuse epidemic by targeting significant local criminal distributors, including pain clinics that illegally distribute Oxycodone and other addictive opioids. These “pill mills” are a recent phenomenon in the district and have contributed to a spike in drug use, including heroin, particularly by youth. In addition to prosecutions of appropriate cases, the United States Attorney’s Office has worked with its law enforcement partners and medical organizations to raise awareness of the problem in the community.

Prescription Drug Abuse

TOCN partners with HIDTA agents based at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to prosecute couriers and organizations responsible for importing illegal narcotics into the United States by air transport.   Recent prosecutions also have targeted corrupt airline and TSA employees working at the airport.

Pursuant to a 2011 White House initiative to more vigorously address transnational organized crime, FBI recently has established a unit devoted to these investigations.  Partnering with TOCN and our office’s Major Crimes section, FBI is working to identify overseas organizations conducting criminal activity in our district, ranging from human trafficking to fraud.

Other recent TOCN prosecutions include:

Economic Crime Section

Fraud schemes are virtually unlimited in variety and devastating on their victims.  As one court has observed, fraud is as old as falsehood and as versatile as human ingenuity. The Economic Crime Section prosecutes a wide array of "white collar" offenses that cause economic harm to the government (such as counterfeiting, health care, tax and benefits fraud), financial institutions and businesses (such as corporate fraud, bank fraud, computer fraud, mortgage fraud, and intellectual property fraud), and private individuals (such as Ponzi schemes, investment fraud, and identity theft).

Corporate Fraud and Investment Fraud:

The prosecution of corporate fraud has long been a national priority.  Our district continues to vigorously investigate and prosecute corrupt conduct by corporations and criminal insiders, with the conduct including accounting fraud, insider trading, market manipulation, securities fraud, and mail and wire fraud based on fraudulent misrepresentations regarding the nature of an investment opportunity. Recent prosecutions include:

Bank Fraud:

The nation’s financial crisis was caused in part by corrupt bank insiders and major borrowers whose crimes contributed to the failures or bailouts of financial institutions previously believed to be secure.  Unfortunately Georgia leads the nation in bank failures, with numerous banks having been shut down by the FDIC since the crisis began.  Attacking this ongoing problem through the aggressive prosecution of bank fraud is one of our district’s high priorities.  Recent prosecutions include:

Health Care Fraud:

The prosecution of health care fraud is another important priority of our district, especially since criminal wrongdoing in the health care arena can, and often does, harm our nation’s most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the ill, and the poor. Our district prosecutes frauds against Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies. Medicare is the largest single payer of health care services in the U.S., and most federal health care investigations and prosecutions concern Medicare. All segments of the health care industry are subject to investigation by this office, including hospitals, nursing home chains, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and prescription drug retailers, as well as smaller entities like durable medical equipment suppliers, individual physicians and other health care providers. Recent prosecutions include:

Computer crimes:

Fraud crimes are increasingly committed using the Internet or by using a computer system to access non-public information. This greatly increases the number of potential victims, enabling criminals to defraud people they never see. Recent prosecutions include:

Fraud against the Government:

The U.S. Treasury and government programs frequently are targeted by criminals. Georgia has seen a rise in both stolen and fraudulently obtained Treasury checks, involving criminals cashing stolen checks or filing fraudulent claims with the government for money or other benefits. The office has established a task force, including numerous federal law enforcement agencies, to target these criminals and address the problem of Treasury check theft and fraud.  The office further prosecutes all areas of government program fraud, including Social Security fraud, procurement fraud, and counterfeiting. Recent prosecutions include:

Identity Theft:

Our district participates in the Northern District of Georgia Identity Theft Task Force, a partnership which includes financial institutions, and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies joined together to investigate and prosecute offenses involving the manufacture, acquisition, and use of false and stolen identities to defraud citizens in Georgia and elsewhere. The task force also focuses on educating law enforcement, victims, and the general public about all aspects of identity theft. Recent prosecutions include:

Tax Fraud: 

During these difficult economic times for our community and the country at large, protecting the integrity of our federal tax system is of paramount importance. Our district investigates and prosecutes a wide variety of criminal tax crimes and related financial fraud, including the evasion of individual taxes, corporate taxes, and payroll taxes. Our district also works with federal law enforcement partners to combat those who seek to conceal both legal source and illegal source income through various means, including the use of individual or corporate nominees, offshore trusts and money laundering transactions. Recent prosecutions include:

Mortgage Fraud:

Georgia, and metropolitan Atlanta in particular, has seen one of the highest rates of mortgage fraud in the nation for several years.  Our district has dedicated significant prosecutorial and investigative resources to prosecute many complex, sophisticated mortgage fraud schemes and has obtained a substantial number of guilty pleas and convictions, including convictions of attorneys, loan officers, mortgage brokers, appraisers, real estate agents and others who participate in fraudulent transactions. Recent prosecutions include:

Public Corruption

The elimination of public corruption is one of this district’s highest priorities. Federal investigation and prosecution of public corruption is uniquely important because state agencies may be politically unable to investigate and prosecute or may lack the necessary resources or experience, and state law may not be well-suited to such prosecutions. Experienced prosecutors from each section of the Criminal Division participate in public corruption investigations, some of which include civil rights violations. The United States Attorney contributes to the district's stability by rigorously prosecuting public corruption so that public confidence in government is maintained and justified. Recent prosecutions include:

Corrupt Law Enforcement:

Corrupt Elected Officials:

Corrupt Government Employees (Non-Law Enforcement):

Asset Forfeiture Litigation

The Asset Forfeiture attorneys use the federal forfeiture laws to disrupt and deter criminal activity, to dismantle criminal enterprises and to separate criminals and their associates from their ill-gotten gains. Assistant United States Attorneys and support staff pursue all civil forfeiture matters and cases and assist Criminal Division Assistant United States Attorneys with forfeiture related issues in criminal prosecutions. Forfeited assets are used to fund federal, state, and local law enforcement activities to the extent permitted by federal law, and, similarly, in appropriate cases, to provide full or partial restitution to victims of criminal activity.

Updated February 11, 2019

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