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Criminal Division

Appellate Section | Asset Forfeiture Section | National Security Section | Narcotics Section | Violent Crimes Section | White Collar and Economic Crimes Section

The Criminal Division is responsible for all criminal investigations and prosecutions handled by the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Utah.

Appellate Section
Within the Criminal Division, all appeals are routinely assigned to appellate attorneys within the Appellate Section who brief and argue the cases before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. To promote excellence in our appellate advocacy, all briefs are reviewed by two other members of the Appellate Section and all attorneys participate in formal moot court prior to oral argument. In addition to handling pending appeals, the Appellate Section conducts an independent review of all District of Utah court decisions adverse to the government, consults with the U.S. Attorney regarding the merits of appeal, and drafts the U.S. Attorney’s recommendation regarding appeal to the Department of Justice. The Appellate Section also provides training to the Criminal Division on new appellate decisions and potential appellate issues.

Asset Forfeiture Section
The Asset Forfeiture Unit investigates and prosecutes both civil and criminal cases that involve the possible forfeiture of real property, currency, vehicles, and other items of value.

National Security Section
The National Security Section prosecutes a wide variety of criminal matters most of which deal with economic crime. For example, the section handles certain types of bank, wire and mail fraud. The Section also prosecutes those who commit Aggravated Identity Thefts, individuals who steal the identity of another, and commit various types of economic crimes using the identity of another person. The Section handles criminal violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act, it handles certain types of public corruption matters, and is responsible for the Central Violations Bureau calendar. The Section handles theft of government property, theft of mail and counterfeit cases and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Immigration Unit
The Immigration Unit prosecutes a wide variety of immigration-related cases. The most common prosecution involves the relatively simple crime of illegally returning to the United States following a prior deportation. Most of the defendants charged with this crime have prior criminal history which, under federal sentencing guidelines, increases their sentences dramatically. Defendants with prior felony convictions that involve violence, drug trafficking, or sexual abuse often receive prison terms in excess of 60 months. The unit also prosecutes alien smuggling, cases involving document fraud, marriage and visa fraud, hostage taking, and human trafficking.

Alien smuggling crimes involve transporting or harboring illegal aliens as well as those who encourage or induce an illegal alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States. Individuals who meaningfully assist another in entering the United States without prior official authorization may face a three year minimum mandatory term in federal prison.

The unit actively seeks to prosecute those who engage in document fraud, including those who manufacture false immigration-related documents (such as a "green card"), false social security cards, or U.S. or foreign passports. If the producer or possessor of such documents is discovered and the name or identifying information on such document belongs to another person, he or she could face a two year minimum mandatory term of imprisonment for aggravated identity theft.

Marriage and visa fraud cases are also a priority for the unit. Marriage fraud involves a false marriage to a non-citizen to accord him or her an immigration benefit. These sometimes sophisticated crimes involve a series of calculated efforts to deceive U.S. government officials into giving an immigration benefit either to oneself or to another person.

The crime of hostage taking is a dangerous and sinister act in which an individual or group of individuals take others hostage pending, for instance, the payment a ransom. These cases become federal cases when at least one of the defendants or one of the victims is not a citizen or national of the United States. A defendant convicted of this crime could be sentenced to life in prison.

Human trafficking cases are distinct from alien smuggling. Trafficking, commonly referred to as "modern-day slavery," involves the obtaining of labor of another through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. It also involves the obtaining or providing of commercial sex acts by a person who is under the age of 18 or through force, fraud, or coercion. The Department of Justice has made these cases a high priority.

Identity Theft Unit
The Identity Theft Unit is responsible for the prosecution of federal criminal offenses involving the fraudulent use of another person’s identity, including their name, Social Security Number, bank or checking account numbers, or credit accounts. In addition to the illegal use of another’s identity, and the manufacturing and/or sale of fraudulent identifications, which are separate federal crimes, the Identity Theft Unit prosecutes related federal offenses of bank fraud, credit card fraud, false use of a Social Security Number, and immigrant visa fraud. Federal law (18 U.S.C. Section 1028A) punishes identity theft in connection with any of these crimes with a mandatory two-year prison sentence.

The Identity Theft Unit works closely with the Utah Identity Theft Task Force (ITTF) to investigate and prosecute identity theft. The ITTF is a multi-agency and multi-jurisdictional task force of law enforcement agencies devoted to the investigation of identity theft crimes. Agencies which contribute agents and investigators to the ITTF include the FBI, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the United States Secret Service, the Social Security Administration, the Utah Attorney General, and many county sheriffs’ departments and local police departments throughout Utah.

Identity theft is a serious crime which takes an immense toll on its victims, and on economic activity in the community. It can start as simply as having your mail or purse stolen, or having personal information stolen from your car. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft and want to report the crime, want to learn what resources are available to ID theft victims, or just want more information on how to protect yourself from identity theft, there are links elsewhere on this website.

Narcotics Section
This section is comprised of Assistant and Special Assistant United States Attorneys who focus their extensive prosecutorial experience toward the proactive investigative and prosecution of members and participants of large international and domestic drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The primary focus of the Narcotics Enforcement Section is to assist federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in conducting long-term and complex investigations and prosecuting and dismantling major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations using federal grand jury investigations and in using specialized investigative tools such as court authorized wiretaps, undercover operations, and search warrants. The majority of cases handled by Assistant United States Attorneys in this section are those that have been designated as “Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force” or “OCDETF” cases and a majority of the Assistant United States Attorneys in this section are designated OCDETF attorneys. The District of Utah is part of the West Central Region of the national OCDETF program. The West Central Region includes all districts in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and the Southern District of Illinois.

Other long-term non-OCDETF proactive investigations and prosecutions are also handled by the Narcotics Enforcement Section. In this context, Assistant and Special Assistant United States Attorneys in this section respond to the needs and inquiries of all the federal and state investigative agencies in the District to address issues affecting search, arrest, and prosecution of individuals engaged in less complex day-to-day drug trafficking and money laundering activities. These cases typically do not arise from the longer-term proactive and/or OCDETF investigations described above. Examples of these types of cases include, but are not limited to, those arising from airports, bus stations and highway interdiction efforts.

This section has prosecuted and dismantled numerous trafficking organizations that have moved tons of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine through the United States, as well as millions of dollars in drug proceeds in and out of the country. The successes of the Narcotics Enforcement Section (both OCDETF and other narcotics prosecutions) in the District are a direct product of the professionalism and enthusiastic cooperation of the prosecutors, investigators, and support staff assigned to the cases from various agencies.

Violent Crimes Section
The Violent Crimes Section is responsible for the investigation and prosecution of all violent crimes committed within the District of Utah. The Violent Crimes Section is responsible for the District’s Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) program which seeks to reduce gun violence in Utah by targeting felons, violent offenders and gang members who carry and use firearms and ammunition. The PSN program also encompasses project SENTRY which address gun violence among juvenile offenders and addresses gun safety issues.

The Violent Crimes Section is responsible for prosecutions under the Project Safe Childhood program (PSC) which focuses on eliminating violence against children, including all cases involving internet enticement of children, travel for sexual acts against children and child pornography. The PSC program is one of the highest priorities in the District of Utah.

The Section is also responsible for prosecution of all crimes committed in Indian Country and works closely with the local Tribes and Tribal members to assist and protect Indian County people from violent crime.Violent Crimes is also responsible for investigation and prosecution of domestic and international terrorism. Members of the Section work hand in hand with members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) to assist in the prevention of terrorist acts. Members of the Section work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Administration and many state, local and municipal law enforcement agencies and task forces.

Project Safe Neighborhood Unit
Utah Project Safe Neighborhoods began under a different name in 2000. Project CUFF (Criminal Use of Firearms by Felons) was an anti-gun violence program adopted by the United States Attorney for Utah, which successfully prosecuted more than two hundred restricted persons under federal gun laws.

At the direction of President Bush, in 2001, Project CUFF became Utah Project Safe Neighborhoods and the Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative was adopted by all 94 federal judicial districts across America.

Utah’s implementation of the Project Safe Neighborhoods is being applied on a statewide basis and not just to the large metropolitan areas. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s office, county and city attorney offices are dedicated to prosecuting gun violence in the federal system. The PSN Task force, which originally began with a few ATF officers, has grown to more than 45 agents/officers representing nearly three dozen federal, state and local organizations. Utah ranks as a national leader in the fight against gun violence in both the number of indictments returned and the number of defendants charged. As of 2006, Utah PSN initiated over 1500 federal firearms prosecutions. The average prison sentence is 47 months with no possibility of parole.

White Collar and Economic Crimes Section
The White Collar/Economic Crimes Section prosecutes a broad variety of fraudulent conduct committed against individual and governmental victims, including Securities/Investment Fraud, Tax Fraud, Bank Fraud, Mortgage Fraud, Health Care Fraud, Social Security Disability Fraud, and Bankruptcy Fraud. In addition, the Section prosecutes public corruption committed by federal, state, county, and city officials or private individuals dealing with such officials.

Updated March 12, 2015

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