Chicago U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon is overseeing a major restructuring of his office with the creation of new teams focused on stopping securities fraud and cyber crimes – along with a dedicated force to tamp down violent street crime.
The office has about 150 prosecutors and an annual budget of $34 million, and now that a Justice Department hiring freeze has ended, Fardon plans to bring on as many as 10 new prosecutors to fill numerous vacancies, spokesman Randall Samborn said yesterday.
Fardon was confirmed as U.S. Attorney in October, and in addition to white collar initiatives, the reorganization will target violent street crime in an effort to contain the city’s murder rate.
The Monday announcement comes as dozens of people were injured in gun violence over the weekend, and nine people were shot to death, a spike blamed on a mild weather after a harsh winter.
Previously, prosecutors targeted gang and drug crimes in one division.
Now separate teams will target violent crimes and narcotics, a move that won’t bring new resources to the initiatives but is intended to give the cases a sharper focus.
On the white-collar front, a dozen lawyers will focus on securities fraud, an effort to put higher profile financial cases in Chicago courtrooms, particularly since the city is a hub of securities trading.
Samborn pointed to the March conviction of Eric Bloom, CEO of Sentinel Management, in a $500 million fraud case. While securities fraud is already a priority, Samborn said “more can be done.”
Fardon has also appointed William Ridgway as cybercrime deputy chief, signaling the office’s intent to focus more keenly on computer crimes.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office was previously restructured under U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who shifted the focus to anti-terrorism after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Fitzgerald, who announced his retirement in May 2012, also brought a focus to corruption and complex financial crimes.