The Criminal Division is composed of eight sections: complex frauds, violent crime and national security, public integrity and special matters, organized crime and gangs, cyber and intellectual property crime, narcotics and dangerous drugs, asset forfeiture and money laundering, and general crimes.
In each of those sections are Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) who prosecute cases for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. AUSAs in the Criminal Division are charged with countering the threat of terrorism, reducing violent crime and promoting public safety, advancing the rule of law, integrity, and good government, and advocating for and protecting the rights of victims of crime, among other goals.
Violent Crime & National Security Section
The AUSA assigned to the Violent Crime & National Security Section are involved in a wide variety of prosecutions and initiatives that include the most important Department of Justice strategic goals and objectives. The U.S. 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. Other priorities include investigation and prosecution of the illegal export of military and dual-use technologies, sexual exploitation of children, human trafficking, criminal 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 office also enjoys a national and international reputation for its aggressive commitment to investigate and prosecute those engaged in human trafficking and exploitation of children. For example, this office is one of only a few U.S. Attorney’s offices with a U.S. Attorney General Designated “ACTeam” (Anti-Trafficking Enhanced Coordination Team). Led by this office, the team comprises members from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Department of Labor (DOL), with collaboration from state partners including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia State Attorney General’s Office. The team’s mandate involves implementing a strategic action plan to combat identified human trafficking threats involving foreign-born victims and/or traffickers; focusing on identifying and dismantling human trafficking organizations; and coordinating law enforcement trainings and community forums to expand education about human trafficking indicators and best investigative practices.
The Northern District of Georgia, particularly our metro-Atlanta area, presents a geographically ideal environment for immigration violations and border security threats. To combat illegal re-entry offenses involving individuals unlawfully present in the district, this office designated an AUSA to act as the district’s Border Security Coordinator (BSC). The office’s BSC is a senior prosecutor with experience investigating and prosecuting multi-defendant narcotics, violent crime, and immigration, offenses. Our office also utilizes a Department of Justice authorized “fast-track” program for prosecuting illegal re-entry matters.
Public Integrity and Special Matters Section
The Public Integrity and Special Matters (“PIN”) Section is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting public integrity violations: (a) to obtain retribution for the public and victims of public integrity offenses; (b) to expose official misconduct; and (c) to effect advances in public policy, government oversight, and ethics rules. Based on the nature of its cases, the PIN Section handles some of the most sensitive and high-profile matters in the district – several of which have gained national attention and recognition. In close partnership with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, the PIN Section focuses on the following areas:
- Public Corruption – as a general matter, corruption cases arise when a local, state, or federal public official receives things of value in exchange for performing or failing to perform official acts. The public grants authority to its officials and, in return, citizens are entitled to receive honest services from all who serve in the government. The PIN Section prosecutes officials – such as politicians, law enforcement officers, government executives, and correctional officers – who violate the public’s trust in exchange self-enrichment and personal financial gain. Typical prosecutions involved charges of bribery, extortion under the color of official right, embezzlement, and fraud against the government.
- Civil Rights – the PIN Section also handles the prosecution of criminal civil rights cases that result in violations of individuals’ constitutional rights. Criminal civil rights cases frequently involve prosecutions involving the use of excessive force by law enforcement under the color of law or private individuals who commit violent crimes motivated by bias – commonly known as hate crimes. Hate crime laws recognize and defend the rights of all individuals, regardless of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
- Special Matters – the PIN Section also investigates and prosecutes cases that: (a) are particularly sensitive, (b) have a special significance to the district, and (c) can meaningfully affect the citizens of the district.
Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section
The mission of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Section (NDDS) is to reduce the supply of illegal drugs in the Northern District of Georgia and elsewhere by investigating and prosecuting narcotics distribution and money laundering on a local, national, and international level. Our AUSAs 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 combat these networks that profit from drug trafficking.
NDDS focuses primarily on prosecuting drug trafficking organizations that import illegal drugs from other countries and use Atlanta as a distribution and money-laundering hub for the eastern United States. The majority of these cases rise to the level to be included in the “Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces” (OCDETF) Program, a nationwide program established by the Department of Justice to combat the flow of illicit drugs and drug proceeds by targeting the major drug organizations. NDDS prosecutions are thus 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 indictments charging violations of federal narcotics, firearms, and money laundering statutes.
As part of our participation in the OCDETF program, NDDS, along with members of the OCDETF law enforcement agencies, operate the “David G. Wilhelm Atlanta OCDETF Strike Force,” a special cooperative drug task force named after a slain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Special Agent in Charge who was killed in the line of duty. The OCDETF Strike Force is composed of members of the DEA, FBI, HSI, ATF, IRS, U.S. Marshals, and other agencies, and is designed to pool the resources of the partner agencies 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.
NDDS also includes Special Assistant U.S. 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 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.
As part of the HIDTA initiative, NDDS partners with agents based at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to prosecute couriers and organizations responsible for importing illegal narcotics into the United States by capitalizing on Atlanta’s operation of the world’s busiest airport.
In addition to fighting the distribution of illegal drugs in our district, NDDS is also committed to addressing the recent scourge in the community: prescription pill abuse. Like almost everywhere else in the United States, the opioid epidemic has devastated the Northern District of Georgia, brought on by the influx of highly addictive prescription pain medication. NDDS continues in its efforts to stave off the diversion of addictive painkillers and other prescription medication by ostensible pain management clinics with unscrupulous providers. NDDS, along with its law enforcement partners, has successfully investigated and prosecuted numerous “pill mills” and rogue doctors for illegally prescribing oxycodone and other addictive opioids.
Unfortunately, the increase in prescription opioid abuse has contributed to a spike in illegal drug use, including heroin, particularly by youth. As a result of the well-publicized opioid epidemic plaguing our district, NDDS has made it a priority to prosecute those whose distribution of heroin and other opioids has led to the death or serious bodily harm of another. Strategically Combatting Opioids through Prosecution and Enforcement (SCOPE) is an initiative that combines NDDS’s efforts with those of our law enforcement partners to, where possible, identify those who have suffered an opioid overdose – both fatal and non-fatal – and determine which dealers sold the dangerous narcotics. Prosecutions that punish the death or serious bodily harm trigger stiffer sentences; the goal is to deter the individuals who perpetuate the opioid/heroin epidemic through their distribution of the dangerous drugs that have become the number one cause of accidental death in United States.
Cyber and Intellectual Property Section
The Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section (CIPCS) is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting cyber-criminals who operate from all corners of the globe. The CIPCS has been nationally recognized for charging, extraditing, and convicting some of the world’s most prolific computer hackers who caused millions in losses to victims in this District and elsewhere.
Working closely with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners, the CIPCS aggressively investigates and prosecutes computer intrusions, national security cyber attacks, business email compromises, ransomware attacks, and other schemes targeting elderly victims and our municipalities. Recognizing the emerging use of the Dark Web to facilitate criminal activity, the CIPCS prosecutes Dark Web administrators and merchants who profit off the sale of illegal drugs, firearms, and stolen personal data.
The CIPCS also handles significant counter-proliferation investigations, targeting those who threaten our national security by illegally exporting military and other sensitive technology. Further, the CIPCS investigates and prosecutes the theft of intellectual property and economic espionage.
Complex Frauds 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 Complex Frauds Section prosecutes a wide array of “white collar” offenses that cause economic harm to the government (such as health care fraud, tax fraud, immigration and visa or passport fraud, government program and benefits fraud, and counterfeiting), financial institutions and businesses (such as corporate and securities fraud, bank fraud, and mortgage fraud), private individuals (such as Ponzi schemes, investment fraud, and identity theft), and society as a whole (such as environmental crimes). The Complex Frauds Section also leads the Elder Justice Initiative in our district.
On June 13, 2019, the Attorney General announced the establishment of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force, a joint law enforcement effort that brings together the resources and expertise of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for six federal districts, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and other organizations. Our office was selected as one of the six districts on the Strike Force. The Strike Force focuses on investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect American seniors. These include telemarketing, mass-mailing, and tech-support fraud schemes.
The Elder Justice Initiative promotes investigations and prosecutions of all types of financial scams targeting the elderly. As part of that initiative, we have prioritized the prosecution of crimes involving elder fraud and abuse. For example, numerous defendants have recently been charged for operating call centers that seek to profit by exploiting United States residents, including the most vulnerable members of our community, by impersonating officials from the Internal Revenue Service or individuals offering fictitious payday loans. The call center operators threaten potential victims with arrest, imprisonment, or fines if they do not pay supposed taxes, penalties, or fees.
The prosecution of corporate and investment fraud has long been a priority for the office. 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.
Our district also 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.
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. The section 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.
The U.S. Treasury and government programs frequently are targeted by criminals. Georgia has been hit hard by criminals stealing and fraudulently obtaining U.S. Treasury checks, including 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 section further prosecutes all areas of government program fraud, including Social Security fraud, procurement fraud, and counterfeiting.
Protecting the integrity of our federal tax system is of paramount importance. The section 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 office 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.
Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section
The Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section AUSAs 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. AUSAs and support staff pursue all civil forfeiture matters and cases and assist Criminal Division AUSAs 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. In addition, AUSAs, with a variety of federal investigative agents and deputized state and local officers, investigate and prosecute violations of the federal money laundering statutes that occur within the district and elsewhere.
General Crimes is the first section assignment for all newly hired AUSAs, and designed to provide targeted training and supervision. New AUSA’s have wide-ranging backgrounds, including experiences in clerkships, private practice, state prosecution, federal civil practice, and federal criminal prosecution in other districts or with the Department of Justice. New Criminal AUSAs are assigned to the General Crimes section for a period of six to eighteen months based on their previous experience and the office’s needs.
General Crimes AUSAs are assigned a variety of cases for prosecution, including cases involving immigration, gun, drugs, and fraud offenses, as well as crimes involving victims of violence and sexual exploitation. In complex prosecutions, new AUSAs are assigned to work with senior prosecutors.
General Crimes regularly holds sessions to train new AUSA’s on office administrative procedures, criminal procedure, ethics, investigative and trial techniques, sentencing, and post-conviction relief. Sessions are led by General Crimes section supervisors, along with administrative staff and senior AUSAs in the office. Additionally, new AUSA’s are encouraged to attend specific trainings at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina.