Statement of United States Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan Following Resignation
Miami, Florida – United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Ariana Fajardo Orshan makes the following statement to the residents of South Florida:
My fellow South Floridians:
As is expected with a change in administration, I have submitted to President Biden my resignation as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, effective at midnight on March 27, 2021. Beginning March 28, 2021, Juan Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez, who currently serves as the First Assistant United States Attorney, will lead the office as Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Serving as your United States Attorney has been the privilege and honor of my lifetime. As the first Senate-confirmed woman to lead the office, I find it moving that my tenure ends in March, the month during which we celebrate women’s contributions to society. Befittingly, I take this opportunity to share with you some of the many things that we accomplished during my time as U.S. Attorney.
We battled drug crimes head-on, from targeting local dealers feeding the fentanyl and methamphetamine epidemics in our communities to taking on the most notorious of international drug lords, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the violent leader of the Sinaloa cartel who moved tons of cocaine, heroin, and other illegal narcotics into our country. Prosecutors from my office spent three months in a federal courtroom, sitting across from El Chapo, and secured a guilty verdict and lifetime prison sentence.
We furthered our commitment to reducing violent crime and approached the problem from different angles. When a Little Havana gang used armed violence to further their drug trafficking business in South Florida, we prosecuted 24 gang members and associates. Through our outreach programs, we connected with our community’s children and encouraged them to make smarter choices; and guided adults who had made bad decisions in the past so that they could make better ones in future.
We prosecuted criminals who preyed on seniors, from the leader of a $1 billion investment Ponzi scheme that targeted older adults, to fraudsters who impersonated bank representatives to drain their elderly victims’ bank accounts.
We held accountable doctors and other professionals who stole millions of dollars from our Medicare and Medicaid programs by fraudulently billing for medically unnecessary home health services, prescription drugs, durable medical equipment, and addiction treatment services.
We focused on getting child sex predators off our streets. In one case, we prosecuted the mastermind of an on-line sextortion ring who coerced children into producing and distributing child pornography. In another, we brought a child predator to justice after he lied about his age and enticed an 11-year-old girl into an on-line sexual relationship. These defendants will spend years in prison. We also charged persons you would never expect would commit child exploitation crimes: a former police officer, a former elementary school principal, a veterinarian and a pediatrician.
We took on foreign corruption and money laundering, crimes that deeply impact our community, the treasured gateway to Latin America. We charged the former Economics Minister of Guatemala with laundering millions of dollars in dirty drug proceeds through South Florida banks. To deal with the kleptocrats stealing money from their countries and trying to hide it in South Florida real estate, I established a dedicated Money Laundering Section at the office. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Venezuela, Venezuela’s Minister of Electrical Energy, and officials and businesspeople connected to Venezuela’s state-owned oil company (PDVSA) and similar institutions are among those we have charged with money laundering crimes. And, we seized for forfeiture approximately $450 million in currency and assets from foreign corrupt actors.
We rooted out corruption in local government too, including corruption in government contracting and spending, and in shady deal making that involved bribes. We held to account police officers who furthered illegal drug activity for personal profit.
We sought justice in civil rights cases by securing prison sentences for a former police chief who tried to boost his department’s statistics by directing officers to make baseless arrests and for two corrections officers who used physical assault and intimidation to discipline young inmates in their care. And, we are actively prosecuting a case against a local police officer charged by a grand jury with violating the civil rights of a minor and an adult woman.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, closing our courthouses and forcing us to turn home spaces into workspaces, we pulled together. Thanks in large part to the strength of our information technology staff and administrative personnel, the close to 500 employees of this office adapted and did not miss a beat. We forcefully tackled the new breed of crime, emerging as national leaders in Covid-19 relief fraud prosecutions. And when a father and his sons peddled industrial bleach as a miracle cure for Covid-19, we shut them down in a civil case and charged them in a criminal one.
Of course, our office could not have achieved these successes without the firm partnerships we maintain with ATF, DEA, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, IRS, HHS, Postal Inspection Service, Secret Service, U.S. Marshal’s Service, and other federal, state, and local agencies. Nor could we have succeeded without help from South Florida’s community and religious leaders. I thank the wonderful people of these organizations for their enduring commitment to justice and for their support and friendship.
Finally, it is important to note that we achieved these successes during very challenging times. Three months into my tenure, we faced the longest federal government shutdown in history. In my second year as U.S. Attorney, the global pandemic and ensuing economic crash hit us, changing our lives in unimaginable ways. Amid that crisis, came the months of civil unrest, causing us to self-evaluate and confront difficult and painful race issues. The year 2021 started no better, as violence rocked our nation’s Capitol building on January 6, leading to nationwide investigations and arrests. Lastly, our district suffered the tragic killing of two FBI Miami agents while in the line of duty last month. Having worked through these challenges alongside the dedicated public servants of this office, I know that I leave the residents of South Florida in the best of hands.
I could not have served as U.S. Attorney for the last two and a half years without the support of this community. God bless South Florida and the United States of America!
With warmest regards,
Ariana Fajardo Orshan
United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida
Special Counsel to the U.S. Attorney
Public Affairs Officer