Steve Linick, a former Justice Department Criminal Division official, made national headlines Thursday in his new role as the Federal Housing Finance Agency inspector general, when he questioned large compensation packages for executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Linick, whom the Senate confirmed as inspector general in September, released a report that criticized regulators’ approval of the high compensation packages for executives.
In 2009 and 2010, they paid $17 million to their chief executives and $35.4 million to their top six executives. The government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in September 2008. They have been propped up with billions of taxpayer dollars during mortgage crisis.
“FHFA has a responsibility to Congress and taxpayers to efficiently, consistently, and reliably ensure that the compensation paid to Fannie Mae’s and Freddie Mac’s senior executives is reasonable,” Linick said in a statement, according to The New York Times. “This is especially true when you realize that the U.S. Treasury has invested close to $154 billion to stabilize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” and they “are spending tens of millions of dollars for executive compensation.”
At the DOJ, Linick served as the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division Fraud Section and Executive Director of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force.
He also was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Central District of California from 1994 to 1999 and the Eastern District of Virginia from 1999 to 2006. From 2004 and 2006, he was Deputy Chief of the Fraud Unit in the Eastern District of Virginia U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The law firm of Latham & Watkins LLP named former Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher the managing partner of its D.C. office, the Washington Business Journal reported Monday.
Fisher has been at the firm since she resigned as the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department Criminal Division in 2008. She replaces Eric Bernthal as the managing partner at the D.C. office. Berenthal will stay at Latham & Watkins.
Fisher has been at Latham & Watkins for 10 years, spending two prior stints at the firm from 1996 to 2001 and 2003 to 2005. At the firm, Fisher has handled white-collar criminal matters, including Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases.
“Washington may be one of the most interesting business environments in the country: clients are often not only looking for the high-level legal advice and depth of expertise that they’ve come to expect from Latham globally, but also particular expertise to address regulatory and other government-facing concerns,” Fisher told the Washington Business Journal.
Fisher worked on various high-profile matters while she served in the public sector.
After becoming Assistant Attorney General in 2005, she oversaw the investigation into former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. From 2001 to 2003, Fisher was a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division, serving under then-Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff and working on terrorism matters.
Prior to joining Latham & Watkins in 1996, Fisher aided Republicans in the Senate’s probe into the Whitewater controversy involving then-President Bill Clinton.
Saying that health care fraud is a significant law enforcement problem, a Justice Department Criminal Division official on Wednesday urged Congress to stiffen penalties for swindlers and boost funding for investigations.
“Investment in health care fraud enforcement is a sound one, one that generates revenue,” Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Greg Andres of the Criminal Division told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs federal financial management, government information, federal services and international security subcommittee. “And we believe that supporting our budget would be instrumental to us in continuing those efforts.”
In the hearing on Medicare and Medicaid fraud and waste, Andres called on Congress to back recommendations the U.S. Sentencing Commission made in January that would revise guidelines to increase 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,” he said in his testimony.
Andres also asked Congress to support the request from the DOJ for extra funds in fiscal 2012 to combat health care fraud. Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division made a similar plea for increased funding when he testified at a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing in February.
In its Fiscal year 2012 budget request released in February, the DOJ asks for $283.4 million to fight health care fraud, a 22 percent increase from the funding Congress included in the current continuing resolution for Fiscal 2011. The extra money would allow Medicare Fraud Strike Force Enforcement Action Teams to expand to 20 locations, according to the DOJ. The teams of federal, state and local law enforcement officials, which were credited with the largest federal health care-fraud sweep in U.S. history, currently are located in nine cities.
The government has said it recovered $4 billion from individuals who tried to cheat Medicare and Medicaid in fiscal 2010. The collection was the largest amount ever recovered from Medicare and Medicaid swindlers in one year.
Senators agreed that more aggressive efforts to combat heath care fraud are needed. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) said defrauding Medicare and Medicaid isn’t “a victimless crime.”
“Waste, fraud and abuse undercuts the vitality of [entitlement] programs,” said Brown, the top Republican on the subcommittee. “The people that need it most aren’t getting the money. Just that alone, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
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Two prosecutors have been promoted to leadership positions in the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, where they are supervising a new Criminal Division unit dedicated to complex national and international financial cases.
Seetha Ramachandran, who was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York; and Jonathan E. Lopez, a former Fraud Section prosecutor who most recently worked in the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs, last month became co-Deputy Chiefs of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, known as AFMLS. Ramachandran and Lopez also will oversee the section’s new Money Laundering and Bank Integrity Unit.
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division announced the creation of the unit in October.
Ramachandran had served in the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2005. She worked on money laundering and fraud cases, including investigations into alleged multi-million dollar schemes committed against the National Bank of Ethiopia and a customer of a JP Morgan Chase & Co. lockbox facility. Ramachandran also has taught legal writing at Fordham University.
She was a litigation associate at the law firm of Richards, Spears, Kibbe & Orbe LLP from 2003 to 2005 and at the law firm Covington & Burling LLP from 2000 to 2003. Ramachandran also was a law clerk for Judge Richard J. Cardamone of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals from 1999 to 2000.
Ramachandran received her undergraduate degree from Brown University in 1996 and her law degree from Columbia University in 1999.
Lopez had served in the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs for the last year, working on various policy matters, including honest services fraud and sentencing guidelines. He previously was a Senior Litigation Counsel in the Criminal Division Fraud Section from 2006 to 2010, handling Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and fraud cases, including some of the Enron Corp. prosecutions.
He was Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of Florida from 2003 to 2006, working on child exploitation, identity theft, drug and gun cases. Lopez was also a corporate associated at the law firm of Sidley & Austin LLP from 2000 to 2003.
Lopez received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1997 and his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 2000. He was a member of the Georgetown International Environmental Law Review.
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Criminal Division chief Lanny Breuer joined the top federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, Andre Birotte Jr., to announce charges on Wednesday against almost 100 individuals, many with ties to an Armenian street gang.
The defendants, including more than 80 associated with the gang Armenian Power, face charges that range from extortion and racketeering to kidnapping and fraud. Many of the defendants are from the Los Angeles area, but some hail from Denver and Miami. Authorities have arrested dozens of the individuals so far.
“The crimes alleged in these indictments were calculated, wide-ranging, and sophisticated,” Breuer said in remarks prepared for a news conference in Los Angeles.
The group’s influence has grown over the past two decades, and it counts as its allies gangs stretching from Mexico to the former Soviet bloc, Breuer said.
Armenian Power, also known as AP, formed in the late 1980s as Armenian immigrants flocked to the Los Angeles area amid the last years of the Soviet Union.
The California indictments announced Wednesday list almost 400 alleged criminal acts, including extortion schemes, credit card skimming and check fraud. The alleged schemes brought Armenian Power millions of dollars and targeted thousands, according to DOJ officials.
In one of the Armenian Power’s alleged crimes, the gang members kidnapped a businessman and demanded a $500,000 ransom, joking that he could die of a heart attack, Breuer said.
“The Southern California indictments that target the Armenian Power organized crime enterprise provide a window into a group that appears willing to do anything and everything illegal to make a profit,” Birotte said in a statement. “These types of criminal organizations – through the use of extortions, kidnappings and other violent acts – have a demonstrated willingness to prey upon members of their own community.”
The law enforcement takedown, dubbed Operation Power Outage, involved the FBI among other federal and local law enforcement agencies.
On the Los Angeles set of cases are Assistant U.S. Attorneys E. Martin Estrada, Sarah Levitt, Stephen G. Wolfe and Joseph McNally, and Trial Attorney Cristina Moreno of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.
In Miami, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Joseph Huynh and Cynthia Stone, Trial Attorney Margaret Honrath of the Organized Crime section and Trial Attorney Constantine Lizas of the Criminal Division’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section are handling the prosecutions.
Organized Crime Trial Attorneys Robert S. Tully and Joe Wheatley are handling the Denver case.
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A top Justice Department official in the Criminal Division on Thursday said new limits on prosecutors’ use of a federal fraud law to go after white-collar criminals has not stopped corruption prosecutions, but has created holes that the DOJ would like filled.
Matthew Axelrod, senior counsel to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division, told defense lawyers at an American Bar Association town hall meeting that the DOJ lost valuable tools to fight fraud after the Supreme Court said earlier this year that the “honest services fraud” law is limited to bribery and kickback schemes. The justices questioned the convictions of several high-profile defendants, including former Enron chief Jeffrey Skilling and former Canadian newspaper mogul Conrad Black, who were accused of undisclosed self-dealing.
“Everyone should rest assured that the Justice Department remains everyday out there vigorously combating fraud and corruption,” Axelrod said. “The Skilling decision doesn’t mean that our public corruption prosecutions have ceased. But there is a gap.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced legislation in September that would close the gaps made by the Supreme Court decision. The bill would allow the DOJ to once again use the “honest services fraud” law to prosecute public and private officials suspected of undisclosed self-dealing.
Axelrod said the DOJ does not have a position on the bill yet. But he said the DOJ supports a strong legislative fix that the Supreme Court could not overturn.
“We like having as many tools as possible in our toolbox, but we also want to make sure those tools stand the test of time,” Axelrod said.
Noah Bookbinder, Leahy’s chief counsel for criminal justice, said the senator tried to create a ”well-defined, narrow and precise” bill to fill the gap made by the Supreme Court.
“I think one of things that he was careful to do in crafting this [was] to give some real notice and some real definition to the contours of what this crime is,” Bookbinder said. “So, it’s not creating something brand new. It is bringing back this concept of undisclosed self-dealing.”
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Top Justice Department officials joined former colleagues at a memorial service Monday to honor one of their colleagues who passed away earlier this year.
Attorney General Eric Holder and members of the DOJ community told about 200 people gathered in the Department’s Great Hall that former Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General and U.S. Attorney James K. Robinson touched their lives and made an indelible imprint on the DOJ. Robinson, who served in the Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton administrations, died in August after battling gastrointestinal cancer.
“Every action he took, every decision that he made reflected his commitment to strengthening our justice system and serving the American people,” said Holder, who was Deputy Attorney General when Robinson served as Criminal Division chief from 1998 to 2001. (Click here to see a slideshow of photos from the memorial service.)
Deputy Associate Attorney General David Margolis and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John “Jack” Keeney of the Criminal Division said Robinson was also a dedicated lawyer and leader.
Keeney, who once served under Robinson, lauded his former boss for his efforts to combat organized crime, public corruption and labor racketeering as Criminal Division chief.
“Everything Jim did, he did with perfection, with grace, with skill and with compassion,” said Keeney, who retired in September after almost 60 years at the DOJ. “He believed in doing the right thing.”
Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division and former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey, who served during the George W. Bush Administration, also praised Robinson. But only U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. of the Southern District of Georgia, a former U.S. Attorney, gave a glimpse into Robinson’s tenure as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan in the Carter administration.
Moore said he met the “Yankee” when they were going through the U.S. Attorney nomination process and quickly became fast friends. They eventually became members of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and tried to meet up whenever they could.
The judge said Robinson “had a true moral compass” and never complained about difficulties in his life, even when his health was deteriorating.
“Jim Robinson was my best lawyer friend and each year I admired him more and more,” Moore said. “Jim was truly the best, all-around multi-talented lawyer that I had ever known.”
Robinson’s wife, Marti, said her husband “cared deeply” about the DOJ. But she said he mused before his death that the DOJ probably wouldn’t have a memorial for him because he left several years ago.
“Jim wasn’t easily surprised by people,” Marti Robinson said. “But I can absolutely assure you that this would have blown him out.”
Before his death, Robinson laid the groundwork for an endowed scholarship in his name at the Wayne State University Law School, where he was dean. Members of the DOJ community are encouraged to make donations to the James K. Robinson Scholarship at the Wayne State University Law School.
The Justice Department on Monday will host a memorial service in honor of one of its own who served in the Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton administrations, one of the late DOJ official’s former colleagues told Main Justice.
The event in the Great Hall of DOJ headquarters will pay tribute to James K. Robinson, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan from 1977 to 1980 and later led the DOJ Criminal Division from 1998 to 2001. He died in August after battling gastrointestinal cancer.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis are among the members of the DOJ community who are expected to deliver remarks at the service, said former Eastern District of Michigan U.S. Attorney Richard Rossman. He said the DOJ will also show a slideshow of photographs from his life at the gathering.
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Former Justice Department officials, Obama administration members and dozens of past and present government lawyers on Friday paid tribute at DOJ headquarters to the longest serving federal prosecutor who is retiring next week.
Senior DOJ officials at a ceremony praised Deputy Assistant Attorney General John “Jack” Keeney for his 59 years of service. Keeney, 88, will leave the DOJ on Sept. 30.
“You will continue to be a role model and you will always be a legend to lawyers, paralegals, support staff and Attorneys General who served our nation’s Department of Justice,” said Attorney General Eric Holder as more than 100 people looked on. He added that it was a “privilege” to work with and learn from the veteran prosecutor, who started at the DOJ during the Dwight Eisenhower administration.
Holder and several of Keeney’s colleagues described him as one of the most revered and trusted career prosecutors at the DOJ. He served under dozens of Deputy Attorneys General and more than 20 Attorneys General, including George W. Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who attended the ceremony.
Keeney joined the DOJ Criminal Division in 1951. Three years later, he ascended to chief of the unit that prosecuted Smith Act cases, involving conspiracies to overthrow the U.S. government.
He moved to Organized Crime and Racketeering Section in 1960, serving as Deputy Chief. The prosecutor then served as chief of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section from 1969 to 1973, before becoming Deputy Assistant Attorney General.
Keeney was a member of the U.S. team that negotiated the mutual legal assistance treaty in criminal matters with Switzerland. He also served as acting Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division on several occasions.
He has received numerous honors for his service, including a building named for him. At the ceremony, he was given a commemorative plaque from the Criminal Division, a letter of gratitude from President Barack Obama, a framed copy of a statement in the Congressional Record honoring him and the Claudia J. Flynn Award for Professional Responsibility, which was handed out for the first time on Friday. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer also unveiled a photograph of Keeney that will be on permanent display in the Criminal Division.
“Throughout his long tenure, Mr. Keeney has passed judgment on some of the most sensitive and high-profile prosecutions by this department,” Breuer said. “And for the last 59 years no one – no reporter, no op-ed writer, no defense attorney, no politician – has ever been able to credibly claim that any decision by Mr. Keeney was based on anything but the facts and the law.”
Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis joked about Keeney, a close friend, who interviewed him for a job at DOJ in 1969. Margolis said he and Keeney were recently sitting on a bench in DOJ chatting when someone had an observation to share with the two.
“You two guys look like you would be more at home sitting on a bench in front of the building feeding the pigeons,” the man said, according to Margolis. “At least, I think that’s what he said. Jack’s hearing aid and my hearing aid [had problems].”
Keeney smiled from a seat behind the podium as his colleagues shared their stories and paid tribute to him. He said he was “overwhelmed” by the praise.
“All I can say to you is thanks for everything you have done for me and thanks for coming,” Keeney said.
A senior FBI official said Wednesday at a Senate hearing that the bureau will put one of its agents in a Securities and Exchange Commission office that handles tips, referrals and complaints sent to the federal regulatory agency.
FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bureau and the SEC recently agreed to put an FBI agent in the commission’s Office of Market Intelligence, as part of an effort to increase cooperation between the agencies on fighting financial fraud. Perkins joined Director Robert Khuzami of the SEC Division of Enforcement and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Justice Department Criminal Division to testify about their work to fight economic crimes since the enactment of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act in May 2009.
“This cooperative effort on the part of both organizations will allow for much better coordination with regard to the referral of potential criminal activity in securities markets,” Perkins said.
Khuzami said the SEC is also offering new incentives to insiders who come forward with information about economic crimes.
The commission is offering reduced sanctions for company insiders who help with financial fraud investigations. The SEC is also creating a Whistleblower Office within the Office of Market Intelligence, which was established earlier this year. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Recovery and Reform Act, which became law in July, gave the commission the ability to offer significant awards to whistleblowers of financial fraud.
“Those … two efforts should do a lot to get us earlier information on the inside while a scheme is unfolding,” Khuzami said. “That’s the best way to get as high up in the organization as we can.”
Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) in December at a similar hearing expressed frustration about the dearth of high-profile prosecutions tied to the 2008 financial meltdown. The senator reiterated his disappointment at the hearing Wednesday.
Breuer said the DOJ and its law enforcement partners are committed to fighting financial fraud at all levels. He said the DOJ has targeted “thousands” of fraudsters, including corporate executives in the last year.
“We have doubled our efforts to send a strong, deterrent message to would-be fraudsters by vigorously prosecuting these criminals and sending them to jail,” Breuer said.
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