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Press Release

Two Individuals in Southern District of Florida Receive Attorney General Awards

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Florida

Attorney General Loretta Lynch recognized 279 Justice Department employees and 33 individuals, including two people in the Southern District of Florida, with Attorney General Awards at a ceremony today in Washington DC. These annual awards recognize department employees and other individuals for their dedication to carrying out the Department of Justice’s mission.

“The individuals being honored today stand out within a department that holds all of its employees and partners to an extremely high standard of excellence,” said Attorney General Lynch.  “They have put in long hours, made immense sacrifices, and, in some cases, placed themselves in harm’s way.  They have taken on issues that once seemed intractable, and made progress on problems that once seemed impossible.  And their outstanding work is an inspiration to public servants everywhere.”

“I commend the tireless efforts of Assistant United States Attorneys Marie Villafaña and E.J. Yera to combat fraud and obtain significant financial recoveries on behalf of the defrauded companies,” said U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida. “I am incredibly proud of the outstanding work done by our colleagues at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”

In the Southern District of Florida, Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) A. Marie Villafaña and Evelio J. (EJ) Yera were recognized with the Attorney General’s Award for Fraud Prevention.   The Attorney General’s Award for Fraud Prevention recognizes the exceptional dedication and effort to prevent, investigate, and prosecute fraud, white collar crimes, and official corruption.  The award was presented to AUSAs Villafaña and Yera for their integral roles in Operation Sledgehammer, a six-part operation directed at staged auto accidents and chiropractic clinic fraud.  Starting with Operation Sledgehammer I in June 2011 and including the defendants charged in Operation Sledgehammer VI, 105 defendants have been charged for their participation in this automobile insurance fraud scheme.  Of those 105 defendants, 57 have been charged federally by the U.S. Attorney's Office, and 51 were convicted either by guilty plea or after trial, including 6 chiropractors, and 15 other licensed healthcare professionals, resulting in court-ordered restitution of more than $10 million to the defrauded insurance companies.  Forty-eight defendants have been charged by the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at or on

Updated February 4, 2016