United States Attorney Peter E. Deegan, Jr. of the Northern District of Iowa has announced his resignation effective midnight on Wednesday, February 17, 2021. Upon his departure from the Department of Justice, Mr. Deegan plans to join a private law firm based in the Midwest.
Mr. Deegan’s career as a federal prosecutor began in 1998 when he joined the Northern District of Iowa’s Sioux City branch office as a Special Assistant United States Attorney employed through the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Mr. Deegan prosecuted methamphetamine manufacturers and traffickers as part of the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area’s methamphetamine initiative. Starting in 1999, as an Assistant United States Attorney, he prosecuted a full variety of federal criminal cases from narcotics and violent crime to complex fraud, child sexual exploitation, and business crimes. Over the course of his career, Mr. Deegan served as a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Iowa and the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit. From early 2015 until his confirmation as United States Attorney in September 2017, Mr. Deegan served as the Chief of the Criminal Division in the Northern District of Iowa.
“I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa. Representing our nation has been the privilege of my lifetime and it has been an honor to have been entrusted with that responsibility,” Deegan said. “Of course, all of the many accomplishments of this office during my tenure are directly attributable to the extraordinary work of the attorneys and staff of the Northern District of Iowa. Their dedication and commitment to justice cannot be overstated. Nor would our accomplishments have been possible without the federal, state, and local law enforcement partners who dedicate their lives and risk their personal safety every day to make our communities safer. I will be forever humbled to have been part of the tremendous team we have in the Northern District of Iowa. I wish the Biden and Harris Administration the very best as it leads our nation forward.”
Below is a brief synopsis of some of the achievements of the U.S. Attorney’s Office during Mr. Deegan’s tenure as United States Attorney. Please refer to the district’s website at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndia for a complete collection of press releases.
During Mr. Deegan’s tenure, the office added two new prosecutors dedicated to violent crime. In order to prevent future acts of violence, the office prioritized prosecuting dangerous offenders who illegally possessed firearms or ammunition. In 2020, nearly half of the offenders charged in the district were involved in the illegal use or possession of guns.
Opioids and Methamphetamine Trafficking
The office also prioritized prosecuting those trafficking in opioids and methamphetamine. Between 2005 and 2017, the number of opioid related deaths in Iowa more than tripled, peaking in 2017 with 206 opioid deaths in the state. In response to the growing opioid problem, the office grew its partnership with the Cedar Rapids Police Department to continue the Eastern Iowa Heroin Initiative, funded by the federal Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. The initiative has a three-pronged approach: enforcement, prevention, and treatment. As a part of the initiative’s enforcement efforts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted more than 100 defendants for felony-level opioid charges. Those prosecutions included charges for trafficking in heroin, fentanyl, and related drugs. A number of the prosecutions were for drug distributions that resulted in deaths. This initiative also provided communities across Iowa with drug awareness programs, first-responder trainings, and it highlighted the need for detoxification, treatment and other services. Among those services is increased access to naloxone, also known as Narcan, used to treat opioid overdoses.
Among the many opioid-related cases prosecuted during Mr. Deegan’s tenure was United States v. Samantha Jo Rogers. Rogers, who was a licensed occupational therapist, used her job to access medical records of thousands of people. She then used that information to enter and burglarize over a dozen homes in an attempt to steal opioids from elderly patients. As a result of the prosecution, Rogers was sentenced to federal prison and ordered to surrender her occupational therapy license.
At the same time, recognizing that methamphetamine remained a plague on communities in the district, the office also focused on prosecuting major-source methamphetamine traffickers. Those prosecutions included United States v. Monee Yodprasit, a drug trafficker in Sioux City, Iowa, who was sentenced to over 32 years in federal prison for receiving and distributing large quantities of methamphetamine while armed. During the investigation of Yodprasit, law enforcement seized over 20 pounds of methamphetamine, 20 grams of heroin, two pounds of cocaine, and two loaded firearms.
False Claims Act
During United States Attorney Deegan’s term, the office dedicated additional resources to civil enforcement of the False Claims Act. The office bolstered its affirmative investigatory practice to unmatched levels while becoming a favored environment for Qui Tam lawsuits. The office resolved numerous Qui Tam lawsuits of national significance, including a multidistrict resolution of $37.5 million with a large durable medical equipment manufacturer. The office also resolved several highly significant affirmative investigations under the False Claims Act, including settlements or judgments exceeding $1 million with an Iowa surgeon and a regional skilled nursing facility chain.
The office also focused on protecting the most vulnerable victims in the district, including elderly individuals who are often targeted by fraud. Fraud targeting the elderly is uniquely unconscionable and harmful because of its potential to deprive elderly people of their dignity and quickly drain their life savings. The office used every available tool to address the problem and prosecuted dozens of defendants for their roles in defrauding the elderly. Such prosecutions included United States v. Howard Derby and Patti Derby. In that case, the Derbys stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Howard Derby’s elderly mother by using powers of attorney to transfer money from her bank account purportedly to use for her benefit. Instead, the Derbys spent the money on themselves. After they had drained her account of money, the victim was no longer able to afford her assisted living facility. After moving out of the assisted living facility, the victim lost a significant amount of weight, broke her wrist, and was hospitalized. Both Howard and Patti Derby were sentenced to years in federal prison.
Follow us on Twitter @USAO_NDIA.