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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian to Step Down

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of New York

Albany, New York – Richard S. Hartunian announced today that he will step down as United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York on June 30, 2017, after serving seven and one-half years in office and 20 years with the Department of Justice. Hartunian has informed President Trump and Attorney General Sessions of his decision. First Assistant United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith will become Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York on July 1, 2017.

“Serving as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York has been the highest professional privilege of my lifetime,” said United States Attorney Hartunian. “It has been an honor to work with the men and women of the Department of Justice and to witness the immeasurable commitment to justice of my law enforcement colleagues throughout the nation. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to lead an office of outstanding, dedicated professionals who work tirelessly, day in and day out, to keep our communities safe. I am proud of our achievements and confident that the good work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue under the outstanding leadership of Acting United States Attorney Jaquith.”

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein said, “Throughout his service as a career prosecutor and as United States Attorney, Rick Hartunian has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to the cause of justice. He is an excellent colleague and a reliable friend. I thank Rick for his twenty years of distinguished federal service and wish him all the best in the next chapter of his career.”

Richard S. Hartunian took office as the 48th United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York on January 3, 2010. Hartunian also served as the Chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee (AGAC) in 2016 and 2017, leading the sixteen U.S. Attorneys who are responsible for advising the Attorney General on policy, management and operational issues influencing all 94 federal districts nationwide. He was appointed to this committee in 2013, working with his U.S. Attorney colleagues from around the nation to fight violent crime, promote border security, improve police/community relations and address the nationwide heroin/opioid abuse epidemic.

In 2010, Hartunian was honored by the Armenian Bar Association as the first United States Attorney of Armenian descent.

As United States Attorney, Hartunian emphasized several key areas. Fighting terrorist activity has been his highest priority – indeed, his sister Lynne was killed in the 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 – and his tenure included the prosecution of Glendon Crawford and Eric Feight. Crawford, a Ku Klux Klan member and the first person to be convicted of attempting to possess and use a radiological dispersal device, was sentenced to be imprisoned for 30 years for his plot to build a lethal radiation device to kill Muslim Americans and others.  Feight, his accomplice, pled guilty to providing material support to terrorism and was sentenced to over 8 years in prison.

Border security has been a related priority, and Hartunian co-chaired the AGAC’s Border and Immigration Subcommittee, leading the Northern Border United States Attorneys in their efforts to combat transnational crime and improve cooperation with Canadian prosecutors and law enforcement agencies. In support of that effort, Hartunian testified on behalf of DOJ in April 2015, before the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, about the state of northern border security.

As a long time narcotics prosecutor, both on the local and federal level, U.S. Attorney Hartunian emphasized aggressive narcotics and gang prosecutions, with cases against the V-Not and Bricktown gangs in Syracuse, the Uptown Gunners in Schenectady, and the Original Gangsta Killers in Albany.  His office fought the scourge of synthetic drugs through impactful prosecutions in Zhang and Tebbetts, and he testified on behalf of DOJ, before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee in June 2016, about the dangers of synthetic drugs.

In combatting financial fraud, U.S. Attorney Hartunian’s office prosecuted multi-million dollar fraudsters like McGinn and Smith, Stehl and Rossignol, Valente, and Backis.

Public and professional corruption has remained a priority for the DOJ and the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Hartunian’s leadership, as demonstrated by the prosecutions of Assemblyman Scarborough and Town Supervisor Warmouth, Saratoga County Deputy Sheriff Fuller, and attorneys Stanley Cohen, David Ehrlich and Michael Bouchard.

U.S. Attorney Hartunian also sought justice for victims of violent crime. In cases involving terrible acts of child exploitation, his office brought impactful prosecutions and achieved lengthy sentences against Kopp and Oberst, Howells and Vaisey, sex traffickers Tilden and Davall, and Christopher and Amanda Jansen. Finally, his office’s prosecution of four individuals for lying in connection with the investigation of a deadly arson homicide, where three children and one adult were killed, and another child seriously burned, demonstrated U.S. Attorney Hartunian’s commitment to fighting for victims of violent crime. “I am confident that my office will continue to seek the full measure of justice for the victims of this terrible tragedy,” he said, “and our prosecutors and agents will not rest until that goal has been fully achieved.”

Hartunian thanked his staff for their impactful work, describing them as “an incredible collection of talented AUSAs and support professionals who work long hours, out of the limelight, to help crime victims and keep our communities safe.”

Native American issues have remained an important facet of the U.S. Attorney’s work during Hartunian’s tenure. He served on the AGAC’s Native American Issues Subcommittee and visited several tribes throughout the United States, while consulting regularly with the Oneida, Mohawk, Onondaga and Cayuga nation leadership in the Northern District. He appointed a full time tribal liaison – a first for the NDNY – and collaborated closely with tribal police agencies to address public safety needs in Indian Country. “I am proud to have been part of improved nation to nation relations over the past eight years, and I am confident that we will build upon our successes and continue our constructive work with tribal communities in an environment of mutual respect and friendship,” Hartunian said.

U.S. Attorney Hartunian placed great emphasis on strengthening the NDNY Civil Division, doubling the number of AUSAs handling civil matters and emphasizing affirmative civil enforcement cases in the areas of health care, defense procurement and the environment.  He was a member of the AGAC’s Health Care and Environmental Issues Subcommittees, and instituted programs designed to maximize recoveries and inform industry representatives about the NDNY’s increased enforcement efforts. As a measure of the success of these efforts, the NDNY recovered the following amounts in civil and criminal penalties during his term: $30.8 million in FY 2012; $29.3 million in FY 2013; $44 million in FY 2014; $32 million in FY 2015; and $20 million in FY 2016. In civil health care fraud matters alone, the office has recovered more than $25 million during Hartunian’s tenure -- a dramatic increase over previous years – including multi-million dollar settlements with Endo Pharmaceuticals, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Open MRI. “I’m proud of the work of the NDNY Civil Division, which has become a nationwide model of efficiency and effectiveness,” Hartunian said.

Crime prevention has also been a priority during his tenure, including through the LEADership Project, a youth violence reduction program designed to help 5th grade students steer clear of gangs, drugs, violence, and vandalism; Youth Courts; Reentry Court; and community and interdisciplinary forums to address the epidemic of opioid and synthetic drug abuse. “We must take a comprehensive approach to fighting crime – aggressive enforcement, strong prevention efforts aimed at young people, and attention to the needs of re-entering persons – these are the successful building blocks for safer communities,” Hartunian noted.

Hartunian is a 1983 cum laude graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgetown University and a 1986 graduate of the Albany Law School. He was engaged in the general private practice of law at the firm of Devine, Piedmont and Rutnik in Albany from 1987 to 1990, and served as an Assistant District Attorney in Albany County from 1990 to 1997, where his work on narcotics and violent crime cases led to his designation as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1994. He became an Assistant United States Attorney in 1997, and went on to serve as the Northern District’s Narcotics Chief and Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Coordinator from 2006 until his appointment as U.S. Attorney in 2010. During his tenure as an Assistant United States Attorney, Hartunian successfully prosecuted numerous large drug, gang, and violent crime cases. He has received many awards for his work, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons General Counsel’s Exemplary Assistance Award, the Narcotics Enforcement Officers’ Association U.S. Department of Justice Award, various Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Regional Awards, and several case-related commendations.

Hartunian plans to enter private practice, with a further announcement to follow.

The Northern District of New York is comprised of thirty-two counties in upstate New York, covering an area of over 30,000 square miles that is home to about 3.4 million people. The District includes 310 miles of the U.S. border with Canada and the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, and Onondaga Nations. The United States Attorney has offices in Syracuse, Albany, Binghamton, and Plattsburgh.

Updated June 27, 2017

Office and Personnel Updates