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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 5, 2016

U.S. Attorney Hochul Announces Departure; Will End 30 Year Department Of Justice Career October 28

CONTACT:      Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX:            (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, NY—William J. Hochul, Jr., announced today that he will leave his position as United States Attorney, and retire from public service after nearly 30 years in the Department of Justice. U.S. Attorney Hochul will leave his position October 28.

“While the threat to Americans and Western New Yorkers has changed over the decades of my service, it has been my experience that certain fundamental truths have remained constant,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “First, the commitment of law enforcement to protect and serve the public has never wavered, and it has been an honor to work with these heroes. Second, the system in which we operate is truly the best the world has ever seen. Finally, it has been a great privilege to be able to achieve justice for those who have been targeted or hurt by vicious predators, unscrupulous fraudsters, and criminals of every type.”    

President Barack Obama nominated Mr. Hochul to serve as the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York in 2009. Following unanimous confirmation by the United States Senate in 2010, he oversaw the prosecution of all federal criminal cases brought within the 17 counties of Western New York. Mr. Hochul also directed and supervised all other matters occurring in the District in which the United States was a party, including affirmative and defensive civil litigation, appellate matters, forfeiture, and more.  

Under Mr. Hochul’s leadership, the United States Attorney’s Office successfully implemented numerous strategies, organizational initiatives, and public outreach programs designed to keep the community safe. Criminal prosecution of terrorism, intellectual property, white collar, environmental, narcotics, identity theft, and cyber-related offenses resulted in some of the most significant cases in District history. Civil litigation returned hundreds of millions of dollars to the United States taxpayers, while simultaneously protecting against frivolous lawsuits. 
   
While Mr. Hochul began serving as United States Attorney over six years ago, his career in the Department of Justice began decades earlier. Upon concluding work as a law clerk to a Maryland Court of Appeal Judge and as an associate at a large international law firm based in Washington, Mr. Hochul joined the Department of Justice in 1987 as an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia. In this role, he prosecuted an extensive array of violent and white collar criminal cases, and later specialized in the prosecution of first-degree and gang-related murder cases.

Mr. Hochul returned to his hometown of Buffalo when he became an Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of New York in 1991.  He prosecuted a large number of notorious violent and white collar criminals, fraud, racketeering and intellectual property offenses, and emerging international organized crime groups. Among his many accomplishments, Mr. Hochul became one of the first federal prosecutors to utilize the federal racketeering laws to dismantle an entire street gang. The prosecution of the “LA Boys” resulted in the murder rate in the City of Buffalo decreasing by nearly 50%.  Other significant prosecutions undertaken by Mr. Hochul early in his Buffalo career involved 20 members of a Niagara County based labor union which used violence against non-union employees and others; a massive food stamp fraud scheme encompassing multiple States; a multi-defendant cigarette trafficking ring, in which the States of Michigan and New York were defrauded of over fifty million dollars; and an international intellectual property trafficking ring, where millions of dollars of proceeds were transmitted to China and the Middle East.   

Mr. Hochul became Chief of the Office’s Anti-Terrorism Unit following September 11, 2001, and Chief of the National Security Division in 2006. While in these positions, Mr. Hochul served as lead prosecutor in several high-profile international terrorism cases, including the highly successful prosecution of the internationally known Lackawanna Six, the first known instance of Americans traveling to train with al Qaeda. 

For his role in the Lackawanna Six case, Mr. Hochul and others who worked with him received the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service – the highest award conferred by the Department of Justice, as well as a Service to America Award, presented by the Partnership for Public Service. 

ENR Magazine (McGraw Hill publication) named Mr. Hochul to its Top 25 Newsmaker Award, “for having purged Niagara County, New York of decades of construction industry violence and intimidation.”  In total, Mr. Hochul received over three dozen awards and honors for his work in the Department of Justice.  

Mr. Hochul’s work as United States Attorney spanned virtually every type of federal criminal and civil case.  Some of the noteworthy criminal cases in this time period included:

• Prosecution of over 200 gang members from 14 gangs. Two such cases, involving all of the members of the 7th and 10th Street Gangs, brought peace to the West Side of Buffalo. Other gang cases involved the East Side of Buffalo, Rochester, Lackawanna, Niagara Falls, and various public housing projects. Most recently, the Office charged members of the Kingsmen Motorcycle Club, including the leadership and officers located in Western New York, Florida and elsewhere, and concluded a successful prosecution of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, whose members operated in California, Rochester, and Batavia.
• Multiple terrorism and threat cases, including the successful prosecution of the first known ISIL recruiter, and a Rochester man who planned to kidnap and behead victims on New Year’s Eve. 
• Some of the largest environmental cases ever brought, including the highly successful prosecution of the Tonawanda Coke Corporation. This case, involving decades of deliberate release of harmful chemicals, resulted in criminal convictions and a judgment against the company of $25 million, a significant portion of which will remain in Western New York to fund health studies.  Cases involving the Kensington Towers, asbestos remediation projects in Rochester, and a massive ivory smuggling case were also successfully concluded.
• In the realm of public corruption, Mr. Hochul’s Office charged or convicted numerous public officials including an elected legislator, mayors, a Federal Highway Safety Official, State and City regulatory and administrative professionals, letter carriers, and police officers. One successful case, involving the prosecution of parking meter attendants, resulted in the City of Buffalo obtaining over $700,000 in additional parking fees the year after the defendants were charged. The prosecution of two police officers for abusing Injured on Duty Status, meanwhile, resulted in over one hundred police officers returning to active duty and no longer claiming IOD. 
• Regarding the opiate/heroin crisis - the leading cause of death in the area - Mr. Hochul’s tenure saw the prosecution of numerous doctors and health care professionals, along with the dismantling of some of the largest cocaine and heroin trafficking rings ever to operate in the District. 
• In the area of military safety, Mr. Hochul’s Office prosecuted cases involving defective helmet screws placed within service members helmets, and non-conforming magnesium used in the manufacture of aircraft counter-measures deployed in aircraft to save pilots and crew from incoming missiles.
• Mr. Hochul’s Office protected children and the most vulnerable through several significant human trafficking and pornography production cases.
• Mr. Hochul authorized federal prosecution of cases traditionally prosecuted in local courts, including the Epps insurance fraud prosecution, the prosecution of Rico Vendetti and others for their roles in a massive shoplifting ring which led to the death of 78 year old Homer Marciniak, the prosecution of off-duty police officers for excessive force or wrongful arrest, and several cold case prosecutions.  

As for civil litigation, Mr. Hochul oversaw the conclusion of the Erie County Jail litigation, and numerous cases involving the health care industry. The Office’s Asset Forfeiture Section, meanwhile, successfully transferred properties to not for profit entities, demolished decrepit buildings, and returned millions of dollars to taxpayers and victims of crime.

Along with his duties as United States Attorney, the Government frequently deployed Mr. Hochul to instruct, domestically and abroad, a wide variety of law enforcement groups, attorneys, and judges on matters relating to investigating and prosecuting organized crime, gang, terrorism, intellectual property, public corruption and money laundering offenses, as well as on police leadership. His most recent international travels took Mr. Hochul to Europe and Africa, where he consulted with judges, prosecutors and investigators from Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Serbia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Ukraine.    

Mr. Hochul made outreach to the community a priority for his Office. The initiatives conducted by Mr. Hochul and his Office included: 

• Three Heroin/Opioid Drug Summits, with the first occurring in 2011
• Youth Engagement – Houghton Law 101; Teen Dating; Anti-Bullying
• Anti-Violence Pledge in all Buffalo Public Schools
• Fraud Awareness - How to Not Be a Victim; Identity Theft
• Protecting Children on-line
• The Justice Report
• Bridges
• How to Run a Business – provided to newly arrived refuges and others
• Annual Newsletters to Schools
• Intelligence meetings with area police
• Active Shooter Training for area businesses
• Intellectual Property Training for businesses
• Cyber Threats Training; Cyber Monday
• Hospital Compliance
• Sexual Assaults on Campus
• Church Safety
• First in the Nation Veteran’s Court
• Education to Parents on Use of Social Media Applications (Apps)
• Cultural Sensitivity Training for federal law enforcement

Finally, Mr. Hochul hired 20 Assistant United States Attorneys during his time as United States Attorney, representing almost 40% of the attorney staff. These attorneys bring widely diverse backgrounds, talents and experiences to the Office, and will no doubt carry on the important work of protecting the public and the Constitution for decades to come.

Updated October 6, 2016