Criminal Division Wants ‘Rock Star’ to Head Fraud Section
By Joe Palazzolo | August 11, 2009 9:55 am

The National Law Journal’s Mike Scarcella reports that the Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who heads the Criminal Division, is bulking up the fraud section to back up the Obama administration’s rhetoric about cracking down on health care and corporate fraud. (Subscription required.)

Lanny Breuer (USDOJ)

Lanny Breuer (USDOJ)

The first piece of the puzzle is filling the the vacancy created last month when last month when Steven Tyrrell, section chief since 2006, announced he was stepping down. Breuer told Scarcella he’s looking for “a superstar” or a “rock star” to fill Tyrrell’s shoes. The department is also planning to pad the section with 10 additional trial attorneys and fill the long-vacant job of deputy chief for corporate, securities and investment fraud.

Breuer appears to casting a wide net in his search for a new section chief. From The NLJ:

Breuer, who oversees the Criminal Division, said he’s been talking to U.S. Attorneys and private practitioners, including former colleagues, about his plans to bolster the fraud section. He said he wants the section, which has 57 attorneys now, to grow. “We’re aggressively and zealously pursuing this hiring initiative,” said Breuer, whom the Obama administration brought over from Washington-based Covington & Burling.

Five of the new positions would be dedicated to sniffing out and prosecuting health-care fraud. The others would be part of the traditional “rapid-response” team of prosecutors who parachute into fraud hot zones around the country.

The defense bar, predictably, is opposed to expanding the section, raising concerns that more prosecutors and more task forces will result in minor violations metastasizing into major litigation, the kind that plays well in news releases.

Prosecutors live to prosecute, especially young lawyers told they’re bringing “cases of extraordinary importance” aimed at reaping millions for the American taxpayer. So defense lawyers counsel caution.

“When the statistics drive the effort, you run the risk of sweeping in otherwise explainable, innocent or nonfraudulent conduct,” warned Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Robert Blume of the Los Angeles-based firm’s Washington and Denver offices.

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