The Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida is represented in all four staffed offices in the District. It is headed by the Chief of the Criminal Division, who is based in the District's main office in Miami. In Miami, Criminal Division activities also are overseen by the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division. The Central Region (Fort Lauderdale branch office) and the Northern Region (West Palm Beach and Fort Pierce branch offices) each have a Managing Assistant United States Attorney (MAUSA) responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Criminal Division within their particular region. The MAUSAs report to the Chief of the Criminal Division in Miami.
In the Miami office, the Criminal Division is divided into five sections: Economic and Environmental Crimes; Major Crimes; Narcotics; Public Integrity National Security & Civil Rights; and Special Prosecutions. Each section is headed by a Chief and at least one Deputy Chief. There are approximately 100 AUSAs working within the Criminal Division in Miami.
In the Central Region, the Criminal Division is divided into three sections: Economic Crimes; Narcotics & Major Crimes; and Organized Crime & Special Prosecutions North. Each section is headed by a Section Chief, and there are more than 30 AUSAs working within the Criminal Division in the Central Region.
In the Northern Region,the Criminal Division is divided into three sections: Criminal I (based in West Palm Beach); Criminal II (based in West Palm Beach); and Criminal III (based in Fort Pierce). Each section is headed by a Section Chief, and there are approximately 30 AUSAs working within the Criminal Division in the Northern Region.
Economic & Environmental Crimes Section
The Economic and Environmental Crimes Section (EEC) investigates and prosecutes a wide variety of complex federal white collar and environmental offenses. While the Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSAs) assigned to the EEC Section can handle all federal criminal matters, they are dedicated to the prosecution of three specialty areas: General Frauds; Health Care Fraud; and Environmental Crimes.
General Frauds Unit - EEC General Frauds prosecutors focus on the broadest range of the sophisticated financial crimes spectrum, including complex investment and securities fraud, Ponzi schemes, boiler rooms and business opportunity scams, bank frauds, corporate frauds, mortgage frauds, computer, tax, and bankruptcy fraud, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) violations, and other large scale mail and wire fraud schemes. In response to increases in computer-related offenses, the Section has developed a Cyber-Crimes/Crypto-Currency program operating within the General Frauds group. Whether a computer intrusion or a fraud involving bitcoin, the AUSAs know how to prosecute the offenders. Additionally, in December 2010, the SDFL created its Securities and Investment Fraud Strike Force as part of a broader initiative to combat investment fraud schemes in South Florida.
Health Care Fraud Unit - EEC Health Care Fraud prosecutors specialize in the detection, investigation and prosecution of health care fraud schemes targeting the Medicare and Medicaid programs as frauds committed against private insurance carriers. The Health Care Fraud prosecutors’ goal is to respond to constantly-evolving Medicare and Medicaid fraud schemes, primarily in Miami-Dade County, involving false claims for durable medical equipment, HIV and cancer medications, home health services, physical therapy/occupational therapy, and mental health services, Managed Care (Medicare Advantage), and more recently fraud through the Medicare Part D program which provides the elderly with their medicines. In response to South Florida's health care fraud epidemic, in 2007, the SDFL created the first-in-the-nation Health Care Fraud Strike Force. Still operating and hugely successful, this unit has led the nation in health care fraud prosecutions every year since its inception. The District also has the only stand-alone Health Care Fraud Facility in the nation, where agents, investigators, nurse practitioners, forensic accountants, and AUSAs work jointly with health care providers and agencies to detect ongoing health care fraud virtually in real-time.
Environmental Crimes Unit - The SDFL has the only Environmental Crimes Unit outside of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. This group of specially trained, experienced prosecutors investigates and prosecutes federal criminal violations of environmental and wildlife protection laws. They prosecute not only traditional polluters who violate federal standards with respect to our air, lands, and waters, but also non-traditional offenses such as the dumping of solid and plastic wastes by the maritime industry, and illegal trafficking in contaminated and adulterated foods and pharmaceuticals. Environmental Crimes prosecutors further provide law enforcement support in our extensive National Parklands and Wildlife Refuges within the District. A significant portion of resources is directed to enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, Lacey Act, and Marine Mammal Protection Act, for violations ranging from habitat destruction to the illicit international trade in threatened and endangered species. Many cases are investigated and prosecuted jointly with foreign enforcement authorities, and state and local agencies.
Major Crimes Section
The Major Crimes Section is responsible for prosecuting reactive federal crimes that occur in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, as well as conducting investigations into a variety of federal crimes involving: (1) government operations and property, including threats to the President of the United States, attacks on Federal officers, theft of government property, counterfeiting, postal offenses, social security fraud, and forged and stolen Treasury checks; (2) crimes related to channels of interstate commerce, including alien smuggling, aircraft hijacking, interference with flight crew, transportation of stolen property, bulk cash smuggling, and trafficking in stolen and counterfeit securities and credit cards; (3) legal process crimes, including obstruction of justice, false statements to federal agents, and bond jumping; (4) violent crimes, including kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery under the Hobbs Act, bank robbery, carjacking, and illegal possession of firearms; (5) crimes against women, children and families, including child pornography, and rape occurring on the high seas; (6) immigration fraud offenses; (7) narcotics trafficking violations, including airport and seaport smuggling, marijuana grow houses and undercover street sales of narcotics; and (8) other crimes that take place in areas of exclusive federal jurisdiction, such as national parks and other federal lands and buildings.
The Section is divided into four Units, each led by a Deputy Chief. Although every AUSA in the Section handles a variety of reactive cases and investigations, each of the Deputy Chiefs has primary responsibility for intake and coordination with various state, local and federal investigative agencies assigned to task forces targeting cargo theft, maritime crimes, Project Safe Neighborhood, identity theft and alien smuggling investigations. As the most trial-intensive Section of the USAO, prosecutors in the Section try between 5 and 10 trials on average each year. In addition to maintaining an active trial calendar, prosecutors in the Major Crimes Section lead proactive investigations into federal crimes.
International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section
International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section consistently leads the nation in the prosecution of high level narcotics traffickers. Staffed with highly experienced and skilled Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) prosecutors, this Section has distinguished itself by prosecuting and convicting the most notorious narco-traffickers and money launderers in the world. From the prosecution and conviction of the leaders of the infamous Medellin, Cali, and Norte Valle cartels, to the extradition and dismantling of the high ranking commanders of the Colombian paramilitary, guerilla groups, Clan de Gulfo, and “Bandas Criminales” (also known as BACRIMs), this Section has been and continues to be relentless in its pursuit of international drug kingpins and their narco-trafficking and money laundering organizations. The International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section also has a dedicated group of prosecutors devoted to the war against maritime shipments of massive quantities of cocaine. The Section’s prosecutors focus on the Caribbean Basin region, as a trans-shipment point for U.S.-bound narcotics from South America, and have recently targeted some of the most sophisticated money laundering schemes seen amongst the world of transnational crime.
In addition, the Narcotics Section is actively involved with the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force. HIDTA prosecutors are co-located with agents and task force officers from the ATF, DEA, FBI, ICE-HSI, IRS-CI and various state and local law enforcement agencies from Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe, and Palm Beach Counties. In addition to prosecuting international narcotics trafficking and money laundering cases, HIDTA prosecutors are on the front lines prosecuting domestic street gangs and criminal organizations trafficking narcotics which affect our local communities. These U.S.-based prosecutions invariably result in the conviction of violent felons who have possessed and used weapons in an attempt to protect and further their drug trafficking enterprises.
Special Prosecutions Section
The Special Prosecutions Section is primarily responsible for investigating and prosecuting violent crimes involving death or serious bodily injury, human trafficking, and child exploitation matters. AUSAs in the Section typically investigate matters involving gang members, threats to commit serious bodily injury or death, serial armed robberies, kidnappings, home invasions, and other death penalty eligible offenses. AUSAs also work on child exploitation cases involving international sex tourism, internet enticement of children, and production of child pornography. In addition, AUSAs work on domestic and international human trafficking cases. The Section handles both significant reactive cases and long-term historical and proactive investigations. The Section is also responsible for overseeing the District's Project Safe Childhood, Project Safe Neighborhood, and Human Trafficking Programs. In this capacity, AUSAs work with federal and local law enforcement officers to combat child exploitation, human trafficking, and violent crimes. AUSAs also participate in community outreach programs and presentations to raise public awareness in these subject areas.
The National Security Section was created in March of 2013 to carry out the Department of Justice’s highest priority: to protect the United States from threats to our national security by pursuing justice through application of criminal law. Although the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida had long handled important national security cases, the formation of a separate section dedicated to this mission ensured that some of the most experienced prosecutors in the Office make it their singular focus. The National Security Section handles counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and counterproliferation matters originating in the Southern District of Florida and overseas, and coordinates with domestic and foreign law enforcement agencies and the United States intelligence community. In addition to working with substantive criminal statutes, prosecutors in the Section also have expertise in national security wiretaps under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the management of classified information under the Classified Information Procedures Act. The National Security Section works closely with other sections in the Office, including the International Narcotics and Money Laundering Section, and handles classified litigation in non-national security cases.
Public Corruption and Civil Rights
The Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section (“PCCRS”) enforces federal laws enacted to protect the public as a whole from corrupt government officials and to protect the individual rights of all people afforded by the United States Constitution. The types of cases addressed by PCCRS can be separated into three broad categories:
Corruption - In general terms, 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 contemplated by the authority of their position. The public grants authority to officials and, in return, is entitled to receive honest services from all who serve in the government. The prosecutors and professional staff in PCCRS prosecute officials – such as politicians, law enforcement officers, government executives, and correctional officers -- who violate the public trust for the sake of self-enrichment.
Campaign Finance - PCCRS also handles violations of federal campaign finance laws. Politicians, along with their staffs and donors, are required to comply with laws that cap the amount that donors can give to a candidate for any particular election. Candidates for federal office must file reports with the Federal Elections Commission (“FEC”) detailing the identity of donors, the amount donated, and all expenditures of the money donated to a campaign. The FEC makes all of these reports available to the public via their website. PCCRS prosecutes federal campaign finance violations in order to promote fair elections in our democratic system.
Civil Rights - PCCRS also prosecutes individuals, whether they be private citizens or public officials, who criminally violate the constitutional rights of individuals. The use of excessive force by law enforcement under the color of law is an example of how public officials can violate an individual’s civil rights. Private individuals who commit violent crimes motivated by bias – commonly known as hate crimes -- also violate federal civil rights laws. 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. Hates crime laws also protect an individual’s right to engage in activities, such as the free exercise of religion, and protect property rights by criminalizing the destruction of religious property such as churches, synagogues, and mosques.