A top Criminal Division supervisor at Justice Department headquarters in Washington has returned to his home base in the Eastern District of New York.
Greg Andres, who served in an acting capacity as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General overseeing the Fraud Section from February 2010 through the end of last month, was previously an Assistant U.S. Attorney and chief of the Criminal Division in Brooklyn.
Andres served as a member of the so-called “front office” alongside Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer, and served as a liaison between Breuer and Fraud Section chief Denis McInerney. He played a behind-the-scenes role in some of the section’s highest profile cases, including the long-stalled financial fraud prosecution of Texas financier R. Allen Stanford. Andres also supervised the division’s units handling capitol cases and appeals.
Andres had been commuting to Washington from his home in New York.
His 22-month tenure in the Criminal Division was marked “with great distinction,” AAG Breuer said late today in a statement to Main Justice.
“He has always brought a boundless energy and vision to his job,” Breuer said. “Greg is a fantastic lawyer and a truly tenacious prosecutor, whose deep devotion to the department and its mission has been invaluable to me and to the division.”
Last March, Andres said in Senate testimony that Congress needed to boost funding to fight Medicare fraud. He urged lawmakers to back recommendations by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to stiffen sentences for health care swindlers.
“These proposed amendments, if they become law, will subject health care fraud defendants to the possibility of even greater prison time than they already face, a prospect that we believe will be a more effective deterrent,” Andres testified. Senators agreed. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) added defrauding Medicare and Medicaid isn’t “a victimless crime.”
Last July, President Barack Obama nominated Ronnie Abrams, Andres’s wife, a lawyer at Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP in New York and the daughter of First Amendment guru Floyd Abrams, to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan.
Her political backer was Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York and former Davis Polk litigator. Andres, too, was a lawyer at Davis Polk when he met his future wife in 1997. They both then left to become federal prosecutors—she chose SDNY; he joined EDNY. Abrams returned to run Davis Polk’s pro bono program in 2008. Her judicial nomination has been pending since July.
Andres made headlines last spring when The New York Daily News and Main Justice reported that convicted mobster Vincent Basciano, who is also known by the sobriquet Vinny Gorgeous, was once ready to kill Andres. That claim surfaced in testimony from ex-mob capo Dominick Cicale in the penalty phase of Basciano’s trial.
Last May, Basciano was convicted of murder for ordering a hit on mob associate Randolph Pizzolo. Andres had played a role in taking down Basciano and his cohorts—all part of the Bonanno crime family. Basciano also supposedly wanted to bump off Andres because Andres had the temerity to dine every week at a mob-connected restaurant that was allegedly under the protection of the Genovese crime family.
It seems that Basciano, 51, who acquired his nickname because he is (or was) a fashion-conscious hair stylist, wrote the name of U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis of the EDNY and that of Andres, on a scrap of paper. Since the piece of paper also bore the name of three mob “rats,’’ federal prosecutors suspected Basciano’s motives.
Not to worry, Basciano cleared it all up during a May 6 closed court hearing as his fate for ordering the murder of a mob associate– the death penalty or life in prison –was being debated. The paper scrap wasn’t a “hit list” but rather a “Santeria list,” meant to ward off bad vibes under the Afro-Caribbean religion, Basciano explained.
“There was never, ever, ever at any time, judge, ever a plot to harm His Honor, Greg Andres, or three cooperating witnesses,” he emphasized.
Basciano did not receive a death sentence.
Andres could not be reached earlier today at his EDNY office.
With Congress shifting its attention to the fiscal 2011 budget, Justice Department officials on Thursday made a case for more resources to tamp down on health care fraud.
In separate congressional hearings, acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler and acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Greg Andres of the Criminal Division, touted the department’s efforts, both citing an impressive statistic: For every $1 spent on enforcement since 1996, $4 were returned to the Medicare trust fund.
While no reliable measurement of health care fraud exists, the department places annual losses in the billions of dollars. Against the backdrop of multitrillion dollar health care legislation, the Obama administration has asked for $90 million in fiscal 2011 — an increase of $60 million — to fight the scourge.
More than half of that amount would cover costs of deploying health care strike forces in as many as 13 new cities, based on an analysis of Medicare claims data, said Grindler in his testimony before a House Appropriations subcommittee
Strike forces are operating in seven cities and comprise investigators and agents from the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services, as well as state and local law enforcement officers.
The Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices collaborate in the task forces, but Grindler said the department expected the latter to “continue these programs in perpetuity” once staffed with trained agents and Assistant U.S. Attorneys. Grindler said the strike forces in the Miami and Los Angeles had become fixtures in their respective U.S. Attorneys’ offices.
The first strike force, in Miami, began work in 2007, targeting fraud in the durable medical equipment market. Grindler said DME claim submissions dropped by $1.74 billion in the strike force’s first 12 months.
Omar Perez, an HHS special agent in the Miami strike force, said Medicare fraud has become a form of organized crime, with sophisticated business models and opportunities for advancement.
“I see people who have never finished high school living lavish lifestyles, making anywhere from $100,000 to millions of dollars a year by committing health care fraud,” Perez told the appropriations panel. “The money involved is staggering.”
In testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee Thursday morning, Andres said the task forces moved quickly, sometimes bringing a case from indictment to disposition to sentencing in a matter of months.
He added that strike force defendants had a conviction rate of more than 94 percent, compared to 64 percent for other health care fraud defendants, and that they serve longer prison terms.
Christopher Mathews contributed to this story.
Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Greg Andres testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on March 4, 2010.
Marshall Miller knew September 2001 would be a big month in his life – he was getting married. He didn’t know it would also set him off on a sobering and intense new career path.
The Eastern District of New York Assistant U.S. Attorney was days away from his wedding when Al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and brought down the World Trade Center towers.
The rising star in the narcotics section at the Brooklyn-based Eastern District office began working night shifts, chasing down leads. His new focus would lead to his involvement in some of the high profile terrorism cases, including Najibullah Zazi, the Denver airport shuttle driver who was charged in September with planning to bomb a New York City target with homemade explosives.
“I think like anyone who experienced that day here in New York, you knew at the moment that happened and the direct aftermath that it was sort of a game changing moment for lots of people,” said Miller said in a recent interview with Main Justice.
“As a prosecutor, it had a particular resonance because you felt one of the gratifying things about working at the command center after 9/11 is you could do something that would assist the city that would be some sort of justice in the aftermath,” he said.
And there was also his Sept. 22 wedding in Manhattan.
“It was quite a period, those 11 days,” Miller said. “We were trying to scramble around and to make sure that we could have the wedding.”
He was able to tie the knot as planned, but his life would be altered.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney regularly works twelve-hour days at the office and more hours from home. There are also the dangers of handling high-profile terrorism cases, like the Zazi prosecution, which could bring retribution to him and his family. Miller, who has never had a serious threat against him as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, said his wife is an “an incredible support mechanism that makes things work.”
“I am blessed to have a wife that is very understanding and also I think is happy that I enjoy my job,” he said. “Also, she’s happy that I’m working on something that I think is important and she values as well.”
Miller, 38, has worked as an Eastern District prosecutor for about seven years, quickly rising through the ranks to become deputy chief of the office’s criminal division, where he helps manage 115 prosecutors.
In an office filled with books, plaques and family photos, he reviews key pleading and indictments. He is also in contact with law enforcement, judges and National Security Division officials in Washington. Last month, he won an award from the National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys for his terrorism-related work.
Miller said he has successfully prosecuted hundreds of defendants, and has only had two acquittals.
“He’s a tremendous public servant,” said Eastern District criminal chef Greg Andres, who has known Miller for 10 years. “He has been at the forefront of a number of areas in criminal prosecution, especially terrorism.”
Miller said his first introduction to New York City terrorism cases came during his successful prosecution of Shahawar Matin Siraj, who conspired to bomb Manhattan’s Herald Square subway station in 2004. Siraj was sentenced in 2007 to 30 years in prison.
“It was an interesting and challenging case and a good way to get to know in a deep way the big players in terrorism investigations and prosecutions in New York City,” Miller said.
The case involved an informant Osama Eldawoody, who secretly taped his conversations with Siraj. Miller said using an informant presents challenges. “Generally informants are not priests and rabbis so they come with their own issues,” Miller said.
Kelly Currie, who is also an Eastern District deputy criminal chief, said Miller’s success in the case came from his ability to think “three steps ahead.”
“He is one of the most thoughtful and innovative prosecutors I have ever worked with,” Currie said.
Miller said terrorism prosecution is “an interesting area to work in.”
“One thing I like about terrorism work is that it is evolving, and it is not as if there is a tried and true strategy that is already in place,” Miller said. “There are strategies that we have learned, passed down from some of the cases that were groundbreaking cases in the ’90s and before. But it is an area of law that is fast paced and shifting because of all the new laws that get passed and the new techniques that are at play.”
But Miller has worked at other jobs since he became an Eastern District Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1999. From 2003 to 2006, he left the U.S. Attorney’s office to work full time as a New York University law professor and assist his brother, former New York City Council speaker, L. Gifford Miller, who ran for New York City mayor in 2005. Miller is still an adjunct professor at the college.
“One of the things that led to me coming back was that I missed working on that kind of case and I enjoyed those cases particularly,” Miller said. “So it has been something that I have been lucky to work on a lot in the last three and a half years.”