HOUSTON – U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick has announced he will resign as chief law enforcement officer for the Southern District of Texas (SDTX) effective midnight Feb. 28.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve our nation and our state as United States Attorney,” said Patrick. “The Southern District is staffed with amazing career men and women who wake up every day ready to represent the United States, and I consider it a high honor that I was able to do the same alongside them for the past three years.”
Patrick was the 23rd presidentially-appointed U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas (SDTX). He was responsible for prosecuting and defending the interests of the United States in one of the largest districts in the country - covering 44,000 square miles and representing nearly nine million people. He oversaw over 450 employees, including approximately 210 Assistant U.S. Attorneys who cover the seven offices across the district.
In just over three years as U.S. Attorney, prosecutors in his office charged nearly 25,000 defendants in almost 22,000 cases consistently ranking as the top or second highest district nationally in overall criminal prosecutions. In fact, felony prosecutions increased 39% in fiscal year 2019 from the previous 12% increase, setting a new case record. Overall, criminal matters referred to the office increased 121% in his first year. The office maintained a 95-96% conviction rate while Patrick served as U.S. Attorney.
Patrick began serving as U.S. Attorney Jan. 8, 2018. In his first year alone, his office found itself at the forefront of a nationwide immigration debate, in the middle of investigating one of the deadliest school shootings and dealing with the complexities associated with an almost unprecedented budget sequestration.
Soon after his arrival to the office in 2018, Patrick emerged as a prominent leader of the ever-increasing immigration debate. He frequently discussed and addressed challenging border issues and protecting people from the harms associated with illegal immigration and human smuggling.
In May 2018, the district also saw the tragedy of the deadly school shooting in Santa Fe. Patrick witnessed the aftermath firsthand. He communicated with parents and others and worked with federal, state and local law enforcement, pledging office resources wherever needed.
Also in 2018, Patrick significantly starting increasing staffing in what is now the busiest criminal docket in the country. The office hired more than 80 attorneys and 80 support staff during his tenure to meet increasing caseloads in South Texas and Houston – due in part to the rising number of illegal entrants and reentrants in Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville, spiking violent street crime in Houston and Corpus Christi and the need for a cadre of civil prosecutors for border fence construction projects along the Rio Grande.
During his administration, the district saw the arrest, conviction and sentencing of a unique case against a local couple who committed international kidnapping of their grandson. Similarly, Patrick fought for the rights of victims, as evidenced by the unprecedented check presented to a woman subjected to labor trafficking. “This woman now has a better chance at a fresh start,” he said.
Particular emphasis in Houston was placed on prosecuting violent crime, with significant prosecutions for bank and armored robberies as well as firearms offenses. In 2019, the SDTX increased violent crime prosecutions by 57%. That year, a judge granted to government’s request for an upward variance and sent a Houston man to prison for 540 months for the killing of a postal worker and another imposed life sentences for an armored car murder crew. The office also pursued similar crimes in other divisions, such as a Laredoan who was ordered to serve 300 months for carjacking and other violent crimes.
The district also saw the first increase in drug prosecutions in five years thanks to a renewed emphasis on local impact drug cases including deadly synthetic drugs and the growing opioid epidemic. In Brownsville, for example, a local man is now serving life in prison for his conviction of meth distribution. Corpus Christi also saw the conviction and sentencing of eight people involved in the deadly distribution of synthetic cannabinoids.
Fraud has also been a consistent problem SDTX prosecutors have battled. One notable case diligently pursued under his administration involved a woman who swindled professional athletes out of millions. She later received the maximum sentence under federal law.
Patrick also placed a significant emphasis on matters of public corruption, believing that those in positions of public trust must be held to the highest levels of integrity. Under Patrick’s leadership, former Houston police officers now face federal civil rights charges. A former Texas judge himself, Patrick was also particularly incensed with a state judge ultimately sent to prison for bribery and obstructing justice, noting “He didn’t just tip the scales of justice, he knocked it over with a wad of cash and didn’t look back.”
Patrick also noted “The protection of life is the most sacred job law enforcement has.” Two notable matters of national security that began under his administration remain pending – one against a Sugar Land man who is pending trial and the other who was convicted of attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.
Not to be forgotten is the large caseload of civil litigation in some of the most difficult and important cases the government faces, including resolution of the border fence issues, defending serious medical malpractice claims and recovering millions in criminal debt and civil fraud. Of note, a Laredo doctor Laredo eye doctor paid over $3M to resolve fraud claims. The division’s civil rights group also helped resolve numerous claims such as an employment discrimination matter on behalf of U.S. Army National Guard reservist.
Additionally, the SDTX continued to consistently rank as one of highest in terms of federal health care fraud prosecutions throughout the nation. Continuing its partnership with the Health Care Fraud Strike Force, the district successfully convicted durable medical equipment owners, doctors, billers and many more to include a Texas rheumatologist for a $325 million health care fraud scheme. Patrick noted “Patients were put through unneeded anxiety and pain so the doctor could make millions. He won’t need it where he’s headed.”
Under his leadership, prosecutors also continued the fight in bringing criminals to justice and protecting the most vulnerable members of our society through the efforts of Project Safe Childhood. In addition to speaking at annual Children’s Assessment Center’s kickoff events, he was also proud to open the new Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance offices. The SDTX convicted, on average, one defendant each week charged with these types of crimes during his tenure. Notable matters included men who are now serving life in federal prison for stealing the childhood of their young victims - one who exploited a barely teenage girl he met via social media and another who trafficked a 10-year-old girl for three years.
During his tenure, Patrick also lead other efforts, such as hosting roundtables on sexual harassment in housing and in the workplace and helped SDTX become part of the Transnational Elder Fraud Task Force.
Patrick is also a strong advocate of our law enforcement partners, placing an emphasis on outreach to them and making sure every chief, sheriff and constable had his phone number. He strongly conveyed that federal law enforcement was willing to assist any agency with any problem, to include cases he cited as “white collar storm looting” in relation to Hurricane Harvey.
Patrick began his career as an Assistant District Attorney in Harris County. During that time, he prosecuted all types of criminal cases, including spending three years as an on-call prosecutor and investigator with the Vehicle Crimes Section focusing on drunk driving fatalities. He finished his time at the office as a member of the Major Offenders Division.
In 2012, then Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Patrick Presiding Judge of the 177th state district court. He was elected to a full four-year-term later in 2012.
Immediately prior to serving as U.S. Attorney, Patrick was in private practice.
Patrick graduated from Baylor University in 2001 and South Texas College of Law in 2006. He is married with four children.