The United States Attorney’s Office’s criminal division handles a variety of federal prosecution work to pursue justice and remove dangerous criminals from Wyoming communities. Due to the small size of the staff, criminal Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs) must each be prepared to handle a variety of matters. Specialization is encouraged in order for AUSAs to develop deeper expertise in important areas of the law; however, every criminal AUSA must be prepared to handle almost any criminal matter on short notice, in the event other AUSAs are unavailable.
Figure 1 - FY 16 Defendants Filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming by Offense Category
Figure 1 illustrates the most common felony offense categories prosecuted by the criminal division. Narcotics-related prosecutions include prosecutions under the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) program, which targets the largest regional and national drug-trafficking organizations. Prosecutions for immigration-related offenses and those for violent crime each represent a 16% portion of the cases. Violent crime offenses include Indian Country violent crime, firearms offenses (most of which fall under the Project Safe Neighborhood program), bank robbery, child exploitation (all of which falls under the Project Safe Childhood program), as well as other violent crime. A government regulatory offense was the primary offense for about 19% of all defendants filed in FY 16. Offenses in this category include counterfeiting, energy pricing and related fraud, environmental offenses, money laundering and other regulatory offenses. White collar crime defendants represented 8% of all defendants filed in FY 16. This category includes bank fraud and embezzlement, computer crime, bankruptcy fraud, health care fraud, mortgage fraud, investment fraud and other types of fraud. Lastly, about 1% of defendants are captured in the other criminal offenses category, which includes assimilated crimes, non-violent Indian Country offenses, official corruption, terrorism and national security offenses, among other crimes.
Different types of cases generally require different amounts of staff time to prosecute. The following chart demonstrates the level of effort in workyears spent by AUSAs prosecuting each category of offense described above (see explanation of “workyears” below). For example, note that although defendants in immigration cases comprised 16% of our criminal workload in terms of filings in FY 16, criminal AUSAs collectively spent 1% of their time on immigration cases. Conversely, although defendants in violent crime cases comprised only 27% of our criminal filings, criminal AUSAs collectively spent 25% of their time on violent crime cases, which typically are more complex and time-consuming.
Figure 1 - FY 16 Criminal AUSA Workyears by Offense Category
*Workyears are a measure of level of effort. Workyears are also known as full-time equivalent (FTE) in the federal budget arena. One workyear (or 1.0 FTE) is equal to the amount of time one full-time employee spends performing official work throughout a one year period. Since a full-time work schedule is 40 hours per week and since there are usually 52 weeks in a year, one workyear is usually equivalent to 2,080 hours. For example, 0.5 FTE (or 0.5 workyears) would represent the level of effort contributed by a part-time employee in one year, if that employee works only 20 hours per week. Also, it is important to note that the federal government is funded by Congress on a fiscal year basis. The fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30. Fiscal Year 2016 therefore ran from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016. The statistical charts on this web page provide data according to fiscal year.
Since the District of Wyoming is comprised of so many areas managed by the federal government, the criminal division also prosecutes over a 1,000 misdemeanors each year to address violations in national parks, at national monuments and in other federal areas. See the following link for more information on our misdemeanor program: Violations in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and in Other Federal Enclaves
Focus Areas and Initiatives
As a result of Congressional requirements, crime trends, and to improve efficiency and effectiveness, several programs and initiatives have been developed over the years to focus and enhance law enforcement efforts among federal, state and local authorities. Brief descriptions of the major focus areas follow (in alphabetical order):
The Asset Forfeiture Program is operated out of the criminal division in Cheyenne and takes steps to recover the proceeds of crime, using criminal or civil forfeiture depending on the circumstances. Federal laws require that people convicted of crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, or terrorism forfeit both their profits and the equipment they used to commit the crimes. Forfeited assets are used to repay the victims of crime and to fund federal, state, and local law enforcement activities.
Crimes Against Children
Victimization of children impacts not only the children themselves but also their families, communities and society at large. Due to their legal, physical and social vulnerabilities, children are sometimes subjected to physical or sexual abuse. Many of the people who prey on children are not first-time offenders, but rather serial offenders who target children. In general, the U.S. Attorney's Office becomes involved when children are victimized in Indian Country, when the abuser crosses state lines, when the crime involves child pornography sent through the mail or via the Internet, or when children are exploited to produce child pornography in the District. These crimes can be some of the most disturbing and damaging and the Office is unswerving in its commitment to prosecute offenders and protect children and communities from further abuse.
Drug Trafficking and the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Program
The U.S. Attorney’s Office plays an important role in reducing drug trafficking and related violence by identifying, disrupting, and dismantling regional drug trafficking rings through an aggressive prosecution effort. By coordinating with federal, state and local agencies through the OCDETF Program, the Office oversees complex narcotics investigations and prosecutes the leaders and organizers of multi-district drug networks. We are actively involved in public education efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of illegal drugs, particularly methamphetamine, which have taken an enormous toll on so many young people in Wyoming.
Fraud and White Collar Crime
The U.S. Attorney’s Office understands that those that would perpetrate fraud will only be deterred by the strong likelihood of prosecution. We therefore work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal, state and local entities to investigate and prosecute a variety of fraud where there exists a federal nexus, including bankruptcy fraud, health care fraud, corporate fraud and financial institution fraud. The Office has established a fraud task force that regularly reviews potential cases, shares information and pools resources to combat fraudulent activities. The Office also strives to obtain restitution, or repayment, for those who have been defrauded.
Gun and Gang Violent Crime: The District of Wyoming’s Project Safe Neighborhood (PSN)
The U.S. Attorney's Office’s "Project Safe Neighborhood" seeks to reduce gun violence in Wyoming by targeting violent criminal offenders who possess or use guns to commit crimes. The effectiveness of PSN is based on the ability of federal, state and local agencies to cooperate in a unified offensive. PSN prosecutions send a clear message to anyone who illegally uses or possesses a gun that gun crimes will not be tolerated in the District of Wyoming.
Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in America. Typically, the perpetrator assumes the good name and credit of a victim in order to steal money, property and services from other unsuspecting victims. The U.S. Attorney's office has taken an aggressive approach to prosecuting identity theft, using new federal laws that impose substantial penalties for such crimes. With the advent of the Internet and the access it provides to vast stores of identity information, federal law enforcement is often best situated to investigate and prosecute these complex crimes. The Office works closely with its state and local counterparts to protect Wyoming citizens.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office seeks removal out of the United States of any criminal aliens found within the District. Since some aliens, particularly those engaged in illegal trafficking activities, are violent and dangerous, posing a serious risk to public safety, the Office places the highest priority on the prosecution of previously-convicted aliens who have returned to Wyoming and committed new crimes.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Attorney General directed U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide to form "Anti-Terrorism Advisory Councils (ATACs)" comprised of representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The District of Wyoming’s ATAC partners include the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE); the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS); the Secret Service; and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as state and local partners. The District of Wyoming ATAC coordinates anti-terrorism initiatives, initiates training programs and facilitates information sharing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office participates in terrorism investigations, prosecutes terrorism and terrorism-related cases (such as hoax cases) and conducts training and preparedness activities to maintain our capability to respond quickly to the unexpected.
Violent Crime in Indian Country
The Wind River Indian Reservation (WRIR) is the only reservation in the District of Wyoming, but it is the seventh largest in the nation with over 2.2 million acres. The Reservation is home to the Eastern Shoshone and the Northern Arapaho Tribes. Because it is the federal government's responsibility to assist and protect the people of Indian Country, the U.S. Attorney’s Office - rather than the State of Wyoming - prosecutes felony crimes occurring on the Reservation. The Office works hard to foster and maintain a respectful and harmonious relationship with the Tribes and tribal members. We strive to reduce the incidence of violent crime on the WRIR by vigorously prosecuting offenders and by undertaking outreach and education activities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office established a branch office in Lander adjacent to the WRIR in 1995 to improve our ability to address violent crime there.