Border Enforcement Section
The Border Enforcement Section is the largest section in the Criminal Division and accounts for approximately 95 percent of the cases prosecuted in the Southern District of California. BES handles a large volume of reactive cases that arise from policing the 141-mile long border between California and Mexico, six Ports of Entry, and the roughly 70 miles of coastline stretching from the U.S.-Mexico border to the northernmost tip of San Diego County. Such cases commonly include illegal entry and reentry, drug importation and smuggling, and alien smuggling prosecutions. BES attorneys try a large number of cases and also often oversee the use of investigative tools like search and tracking warrants, undercover operations and confidential sources.
Violent Crime and Human Trafficking Section
Formed in 2019, the Violent Crimes and Human Trafficking (VCHT) Section is tasked with leading collaborations between federal and local law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of cases involving: violent crimes; firearms and gang cases; sex trafficking and child exploitation; civil rights, hate crimes, labor trafficking; and alien smuggling. The Section pursues a blend of proactive and reactive prosecutions, all of which are aimed at the most violent offenders and vindicating the rights of the community’s most vulnerable victims.
The VCHT Section hosts four dedicated coordinator positions: Civil Rights; Human Trafficking; Project Safe Childhood; and Project Safe Neighborhoods. In addition to these coordinators, the VCHT is also the host for the dedicated liaisons between the United States Attorney’s Office and the North County Regional Gang Task Force, the East County Regional Gang Task Force, the Violent Crimes Task Force, San Diego’s Hate Crimes Coalition, and San Diego’s Human Trafficking Task Force. VCHT prosecutors typically use the federal grand jury and specialized investigative tools such as undercover operations, search warrants, and wiretaps to develop their cases. A significant percentage of VCHT prosecutions also involve complex digital forensics and forensic biology (DNA).
The Section works closely with the ATF, FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, as well as state and local law enforcement.
Project Safe Childhood
Project Safe Childhood (PSC) is a nationwide federal initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. In the Southern District of California, the PSC Coordinator is assigned to the Violent Crimes & Human Trafficking Section.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is a nationwide federal initiative that brings together federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and community leaders to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in a community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. In the Southern District of California, the PSN Coordinator is assigned to the Violent Crimes & Human Trafficking Section. The cases prosecuted under the PSN banner include firearms offenses, bank robberies, Hobbs Act robberies, narcotics distribution, and other federal offenses when the defendant is gang related and/or an individual with a documented violent history. Between fiscal year 2017 and fiscal year 2018, cases designated and prosecuted by the Southern District of California under the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program rose 75 percent; from approximately 79 cases in 2017 to 139 cases in fiscal year 2018. In 2018, FBI official crime data showed that San Diego had achieved its lowest crime rate in the past 49 years and had the lowest violent crime rate of America’s largest cities last year. Efforts to increase prosecutions for fiscal year 2019 are already underway.
Human Trafficking is a crime that involves exploiting a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 and its subsequent reauthorizations define human trafficking as: a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. § 7102(9)). In the Southern District of California, the Human Trafficking Coordinator (HTC) is assigned to the Violent Crimes & Human Trafficking Section. The HTC also serves as the primary liaison to San Diego’s Human Trafficking Task Force.
The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, created in 1957 by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The Division enforces federal statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin. In the Southern District of California, the Civil Rights Coordinator is assigned to the Violent Crimes & Human Trafficking Section. Currently, the Civil Rights Coordinator is also serving as the Chairperson for the San Diego Hate Crimes Coalition.
The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Section investigates and prosecutes members of international and domestic drug trafficking and alien smuggling organizations, including Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations and violent gangs. As part of the OCDETF program, a dedicated number of OCDETF prosecutors focus on maritime drug trafficking. OCDETF prosecutors join investigations at the earliest stages, are skilled in leading federal grand jury investigations, and typically use specialized investigative tools such as wiretaps, undercover operations, and search warrants. OCDETF prosecutors regularly participate in multi-district prosecutions, attacking organizations operating throughout the United States and in other countries. The Section works closely with the DEA, FBI, IRS, BATF, the United States Marshals Service, the Department of Homeland Security, and the United States Coast Guard, as well as state and local officers.
Major Frauds and Public Corruption Section
The Major Frauds and Public Corruption Section oversees the prosecution of complex fraud and public corruption cases in the Office. The Section is responsible for the prosecution of securities fraud, financial institution fraud, healthcare fraud, tax fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and mortgage fraud matters. Prosecutors in the section also commonly prosecute cases involving corporate embezzlement, insider trading, identity theft, environmental crimes, and select organized crime cases. Due to the concentration of military installations in the District, many of the Section’s cases involve fraud perpetrated on the military in its procurement of goods and services.
The Section also oversees the investigation and prosecution of corrupt elected and appointed officials, government employees, and individuals and companies doing business with public entities. Prosecutors in the Section work closely with the FBI and other federal, state, and local agencies to protect all levels of government from corruption.
The Section hosts six dedicated coordinator positions: the Financial Fraud Enforcement Coordinator; the Health Care Fraud Coordinator; the Mortgage Fraud Coordinator; the Defense Procurement Fraud Coordinator; the Bankruptcy Fraud Coordinator; and one of the Office's Discovery Coordinators.
The Section works in close coordination with the Civil Division, administrative and regulatory agencies such as the SEC, and the Office’s Asset Recovery Section to maximize the impact of prosecutions.
National Security and Cybercrimes Section
The National Security and Cybercrimes Section (NSCS) handles matters involving international and domestic terrorism (including threats and hoaxes), counter-espionage, counter-proliferation (i.e ., violations of law involving exports of military or dual use items, as well as exports to embargoed nations), and cyber intrusions. NSCS works closely with the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, Defense Criminal Investigative Services, Secret Service, and the multi-agency Joint Terrorism Task Force, among other law enforcement agencies. NSCS matters are often handled in coordination with the Counterterrorism, Counterespionage, and Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property sections at the Department of Justice. NSCS prosecutors typically become involved at the outset of an investigation and are experienced in managing complex matters, using a wide array of investigative tools, coordinating multi-district and/or international investigations, and navigating novel legal issues.
The Appellate Section handles all appellate litigation before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, from filing briefs to participating in oral arguments. Lawyers for the Appellate Section also advise trial attorneys in litigation in district court, and work with the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General to coordinate potential government appeals, petitions for rehearing en banc, and U.S. Supreme Court litigation arising out of the Southern District.
Asset Recovery Section
The Asset Recovery Section (ARS) recovers assets and property from defendants through forfeiture and restitution statutes. Cases involve a wide range of offenses including fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering, child exploitation, human trafficking, Bank Secrecy Act violations, bank robbery, and other violent crimes. The Section also handles civil forfeitures and collection of debts owed by defendants through restitution orders, fines, and special assessments. ARS recovers millions of dollars in property and assets annually, a large portion of which is returned to victims.