The United States Attorney’s Office is charged with the responsibility of enforcing federal criminal laws in the State of Nebraska. Towards that end, the office has two criminal units which investigate and prosecute violations of federal law. The drug unit consists of 11 attorneys and handles all violations of federal narcotics laws as well as associated weapons and money laundering charges. The General Crimes Unit consists of 11 attorneys and handles all other violations of federal law.
The fight against illegal drug use and distribution continue to be a major priority of the United States Attorney’s Office. Nebraska, with its location in the central United States, between western and eastern drug sources and markets, and with a large number of major interstate and other highways which pass through the State, is a significant trans-shipment area for drug traffickers. Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, and other Nebraska cities serve as redistribution points for drug markets within Nebraska and neighboring states and markets, and to smaller rural communities within the District. AUSA John Higgins serves as Chief, Drug Unit.
The coordinated efforts of Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney’s (SAUSAs), address the comprehensive threat posed to the United States and the District of Nebraska, by the trafficking, diversion and abuse of illegal drugs. SAUSAs from the Douglas and Hall County Attorney’s Offices have greatly expanded the prosecutorial resources dedicated to this effort. Attorneys who prosecuted drug cases were supported by extra-ordinary cooperative investigative efforts of federal, state and local enforcement agencies throughout the District.
While a large number of our prosecutions involve methamphetamine, our lawyers have prosecuted conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute cases involving powder cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, ecstasy, heroin, fentanyl and LSD. In 2017 our office prosecuted drug cases from over 23 counties in the state.
GENERAL CRIMES UNIT
The General Crimes Unit handles a wide variety of cases ranging from violent crime to sophisticated white collar offenses. The United States Attorney’s Office has “major crimes” jurisdiction over the Omaha, Winnebago and Santee Sioux Indian reservations. Indian country prosecutions handled by the unit run the gamut from property offenses to crimes against the person including physical assaults, sexual assaults and homicides. AUSA Michael Norris serves as Chief, General Crimes Unit.
Violent crimes occurring outside of Indian Country are also handled by the General Crimes Unit. Bank robberies, assaults on federal officers and employees, weapons charges and sexual exploitation of both minors and adults are handled by the unit every year.
Prosecutors in the General Crimes Unit are also charged with implementing Project Safe Child. Project Safe Child is a Department of Justice initiative designed to address the drastic increase in offenses involving the online sexual exploitation of children. The Department of Justice partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to pursue online predators. Because of mandatory minimum sentences which flow from convictions for the receipt, transportation, distribution and manufacture of child pornography such cases are frequently prosecuted in federal court. Project Safe Childhood involves partnerships with non-governmental organizations and private citizens and, in addition to prosecuting offenders, is designed to educate children, parents and schools as to the dangers of online predators
The General Crimes Unit also prosecutes a growing caseload of immigration violations. Charges involving illegal reentry into the United States by previously deported felons are commonly prosecuted. So, too, are related charges of identity theft and the illegal production and sale of identification documents. Employers found to be knowingly hiring persons in the country illegally are also investigated and prosecuted.
Each prosecutor assigned to the General Crimes Unit also handles white collar offenses. Such cases can involve corporate and financial institution fraud, bankruptcy fraud, mail fraud, healthcare fraud, computer fraud, agricultural program fraud and public corruption. Unit lawyers also prosecute violations of the nation’s environmental laws and violations of federal fish and wildlife laws.
Lastly, terrorism offenses are also handled by the General Crimes Unit. Unit lawyers work closely with the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to investigate potential terrorism cases. Such cases are not limited to cases involving planned attacks. Terrorism cases may also consist of fund-raising to support terrorism or the recruitment of potential participants. All such cases are handled by unit lawyers.