Posts Tagged ‘D.C.’
Friday, May 27th, 2011

Criminals beware: Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Brooker is after your toys.

Brooker, chief of the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section, is on the hunt for the items criminals used in their crimes and for the proceeds of their misdeeds.

The U.S. Attorney’s office over the last few years seized cars, jet skis, computer equipment and a house that was used for drug dealing. In fiscal 2010, the office collected more money from criminal and civil asset forfeitures than any other U.S. Attorney’s office — $543 million.

And Brooker is looking to get more.

“Although we’ve done a lot of work over the last year, I think we’ve really set some groundwork for many more cases to come that are using forfeiture as an appropriate tool in our mission,” Brooker said in a recent interview with Main Justice at the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The assets seized by the office can come from a wide array of offenses, including fraud, drug crimes and child exploitation. The forfeited funds are used to support local law enforcement activities and provide restitution to crime victims.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has done asset forfeiture decades, but the asset-collecting efforts of the office received a boost under U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen, said Brooker, a six-year veteran of the office.

Machen, who became U.S. Attorney in February 2010, turned what had been the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Unit into a standalone section within the office’s Criminal Division.

DOJ headquarters told Machen after he became U.S. Attorney that his office’s asset forfeiture work could use improvement, he said.

“By putting it as a standalone unit, we’ve really put a focus on it,” Machen told Main Justice. “We’ve put more resources there.”

The U.S. Attorney said he saw the power of asset forfeiture when he was a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP in D.C. He said a lot of his former clients were more concerned about holding on to their assets than staying out of prison.

“I’ve been on the side of the defense counsel where prosecutors have used it effectively and I’ve seen the power of asset forfeiture,” Machen said. “And I’ve been in other cases where it hasn’t been utilized. And I tell you, when it is utilized effectively and aggressively, it’s a tremendous tool for the government.”

Of the $543 million the U.S. Attorney’s office collected from criminal and civil asset forfeitures in fiscal 2010, $500 million came from a case against ABN AMRO Bank. The DOJ alleged the Dutch corporation defrauded the United States, had inadequate anti-money laundering practices and violated U.S. sanctions against Libya, Iran, Cuba, Sudan and other countries.

Of the remaining $43 million, $40 million came from a Ponzi scheme run by Isamu Kuroiwa, a Japanese citizen. Kuroiwa laundered the $40 million through U.S. and Japanese financial institutions to a U.S. broker for investment. The Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section at DOJ headquarters handled the case, but the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office processed the payments in the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s office collected the other $3 million from several cases, including some involving fraud schemes in which the office collected assets that were returned to victims. In at least two cases, defendants had to forfeit vehicles to help satisfy restitution orders.

“I think anything we can do, whatever tool we can use, to try to bring compensation and healing to victims, needs to be used,” Brooker said. “And when you’ve had your money swindled from you, you’ve been betrayed, perhaps you’ve had your life savings taken and your elderly, although we can’t erase the fact that you’ve been the victim of criminal conduct, if we can achieve some return of your stolen funds to you, I think that’s a very powerful tool on behalf of victims.”

Brooker, who has led the section since its establishment last year, relies on three, full-time Assistant U.S. Attorneys, in addition to DOJ lawyers working in her section on a limited or temporary basis, to help collect assets. They are assisted by paralegal and non-attorney staff, including a Deputy U.S. Marshal, who aids with the maintenance and disposition of assets gathered.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney said she looks at every criminal case the office handles a week or two after it is opened to see if the U.S. Attorney’s office can collect assets in the case. About 70 percent of cases have forfeiture potential, according to Brooker.

“I think individuals realize if they engage in illegal activity and they think they’re going to buy homes, buy cars, launder the money, we’re on to that and we’re going to aggressively pursue asset forfeiture and seizures from the beginning of a case and try to take that money back as quickly as possible,” Machen said.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

A former U.S. Attorney is among three U.S. District Court nominations President Barack Obama made Wednesday.

Obama nominated Wilma Lewis, who was the U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia from 1998 to 2001, for the U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands. She would succeed, Raymond Finch, who retired.

Wilma Lewis (Harvard University)

Lewis has been the Interior Department Land and Minerals Management assistant secretary since 2009, after serving a brief stint as senior adviser to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

She previously served as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation managing associate general counsel for litigation from 2007 to 2008 and was a partner at the law firm of Crowell & Moring LLP from 2001 to 2007.

Lewis was the Interior Department associate solicitor for general law from 1993 to 1995 and inspector general from 1995 to 1998.

She also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in D.C.  from 1986 to 1993, holding leadership posts in the office’s Civil Division. Lewis started her professional career as an associate at the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP from 1981 to 1986.

Lewis received her undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College in 1978 and her law degree from Harvard University in 1981.

Obama also nominated Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Torresen for the U.S. District Court for Maine. She would succeed D. Brock Hornby, who retired.

Nancy Torresen (Facebook)

Torresen has spent almost 15 years as a prosecutor in the Maine U.S. Attorney’s Office. She first joined the office in 1990, working on civil matters for four years. Torresen came back to the office in 2001 to handle cases in Northern Maine after she spent seven years in the Maine attorney general office’s criminal division appellate section.

She also was a lawyer at the law firm of Williams & Connolly LLP from 1988 to 1990 and clerked for U.S. District Judge Conrad K. Cyr in Maine from 1987 to 1988.

Torresen received her undergraduate degree from Hope College in 1981 and her law degree from the University of Michigan in 1987.

The president also nominated New Orleans city attorney Nannette Brown for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. She would succeed Stanwood R. Duval Jr., who retired.

Nanette Brown (Nola.gov)

Brown has been the city attorney for New Orleans since May 2010. She also served as the city’s sanitation department director from 1994 to 1996.

But she has spent most of her career in private practice, working at Chaffe McCall LLP from 2004 to 2007 and again from 2009 until 2010; Milling, Benson, Woodward LLP from 2000 to 2003; the Onebane Law Firm from 1996 to 1998 and Adams and Reese LLP from 1988 to 1992.

She also was a law professor at Loyola University from 2007 to 2009, Southern University from 1998 to 2000 and Tulane University from 1992 to 1994.

Brown received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) in 1985 and her law degree from Tulane in 1988. She also received a masters law degree from Tulane in 1998.

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Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Attorney General Eric Holder joined officials from the District of Columbia and surrounding communities on Sunday as Vincent C. Gray was sworn in as the mayor of Washington, a city that remains deeply divided by ethnic and economic differences.

Holder, who said shortly after the September Democratic mayoral primary that he voted for Gray over then-Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, was in the throng who heard Gray emphasize unity in his inaugural speech at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “There is far more that brings us together than there is that drives us apart,” Gray said, according to the Washington Post.

Gray, a 68-year-old widower, is a former City Council chairman. Despite his optimistic tone about unity, the fact remains that the mayoral primary underlined the divisions in the city, many of whose residents in prosperous Northwest embraced Fenty over Gray, who has been regarded as a more traditional politician and picked up more support in other sections of the city.

Attorney General Eric Holder and D.C. Council chairman Kwame Brown laugh at a joke delivered by Vincent Gray.

One theme that Gray touched upon is indisputable: Washington, like many big cities, faces big problems in trying to find the money to deliver services and improve its public schools. (Perhaps ironically, overhauling the city schools was a major priority of Fenty, one that earned him the enmity of some teachers and school administrators and may have contributed to his defeat.)

Holder swore in Kwame Brown as D.C. Council chairman on Sunday. Gray was sworn in by Chief Judge Eric Washington of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

Holder previously met with Gray in September for a closed-door discussion on how the Justice Department and Obama administration can work with the mayor on areas of mutual interest.

Fenty’s predecessor as mayor, Anthony Williams, offered Gray encouragement, along with a touch of realism. “This is the high point here; you never have more political capital,” Williams said. “It’s all downhill from here.”

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Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

FBI Director Robert Mueller on Wednesday tapped a bureau director as the new leader for its Washington Field office.

James McJunkin (Penn State University)

James McJunkin will replace John Perren, who has led the D.C. office since Shawn Henry left in September to become the no. 4 official at the FBI headquarters. McJunkin previously served as the FBI Counterterrorism Division Assistant Director. Mark Giuliano, a deputy assistant director in the Counterterrorism Division, will now hold that post.

McJunkin served the FBI in various capacities since joining in 1987. He first was a special agent in San Antonio and Atlanta before coming to D.C. McJunkin held several leadership posts in the D.C. FBI office and bureau headquarters prior to his appointment as Counterterrorism Division Assistant Director in January.

Giuliano also held several leadership positions at FBI headquarters and at bureau field offices. Many of his positions involved oversight of FBI efforts to combat terrorism around the world, even serving as the bureau’s on-scene commander in Afghanistan.

Ticklethewire.com first reported McJunkin’s move.

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Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday visited the D.C. City Hall to congratulate the winner of the city’s Democratic mayoral primary on behalf of the Barack Obama administration, The Washington Post reported.

Holder told presumptive Mayor-elect Vincent C. Gray that he is “looking good, man” when they saw each other in the city hall lobby, according to the newspaper. The Attorney General, who said he voted for Gray, met with the presumptive mayor-elect for about 20 minutes behind closed doors.

The Attorney General said before the meeting he planned to ask Gray what he would like the president to be “focusing on” and “what things specifically he wants the Justice Department of focus on.”

“I want to congratulate our presumptive mayor and talk about how the Obama administration is committed to making sure we do all we can with regard to public safety and continue what I think is a good relationship between the administration and the city government,” Holder said, according to the Post.

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Monday, September 20th, 2010

D.C. U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen on Monday told members of the Federal Bar Association that his office will boost its efforts to solve cold cases because of the declining number of new homicides in the city, The Blog of Legal Times reported.

Ronald Machen (DOJ)

Machen, who became U.S. Attorney in February, said he will name an Assistant U.S. Attorney to handle disputes over forensic evidence. The U.S. Attorney said he will also increase his office’s community outreach and boost its efforts to fight white-collar crime. He said he plans to hire about 18 prosecutors in the coming months.

The U.S. Attorney also said the Justice Department is engaged in a dedicated effort to plug the leak of classified information to reporters.

According to the BLT, Machen said in an August statement following the announcement of charges in a government leak cases that prosecutors  are committed to “protecting our nation’s secrets and bringing to justice those who betray the confidence placed in them by the American people.”

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Monday, May 24th, 2010

At his ceremonial investiture Monday, D.C.’s new U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said he would focus his office’s efforts on strengthening national security and building partnerships within the community.

Machen, who has been U.S. Attorney since February, said he will work to ensure that justice will not be denied. He said he will try to make the city and the nation a safer place for children.

“We are in a significant position of trust,” Machen said before the packed ceremonial courtroom in the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse on Constitution Avenue. “Our obligations run deep.”

He said it was good to be back in the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office. The top prosecutor served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney from 1997 to 2001, after a stint at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. He also worked at the law firm from 2001 until he became U.S. Attorney in 2010.

D.C. Superior Court Judge James Boasberg, who served with Machen as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, said the prosecutor once shared a modest office with him. Now, Machen’s office is lined with cherry wood and has a private bathroom.

“It’s been, certainly, a long road getting to this point,” Machen said.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who recommended Machen to President Barack Obama, said the prosecutor shined “brightly above the rest” of the candidates for U.S. Attorney.

“I can say to you that Ron Machen has already lived up to our very high expectations,” Norton said.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who hired Machen as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and FBI Director Robert Mueller were slated to attend the investiture. But they were unable to make it because they were called to a meeting at the White House, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court said.

“For some reason, [Holder] had a higher calling,” Lamberth said.

But the courtroom was not without notable DOJ officials, including acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, H. Marshall Jarrett, Director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and several U.S. Attorneys.

Among the U.S. Attorneys in attendance were Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York; Neil MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia; Rod Rosenstein of Maryland; Steve Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio; Zane Memeger of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; and Carmen Ortiz of Massachusetts. Former D.C. U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey Taylor, Kenneth Wainstein, Roscoe Howard and Joseph diGenova were also present.

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Ron Machen (DOJ)

Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to be on hand at the swearing-in ceremony Monday for the D.C. U.S. Attorney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney said Friday.

D.C. U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen was officially sworn in on Feb. 18, a week after the Senate confirmed him. But U.S. Attorneys often have a ceremonial investiture later on, with local, state and federal leaders in attendance.

Holder has attended eight U.S. Attorney investitures so far. He was at the swearing-in ceremonies for Barbara McQuade in the Eastern District of Michigan; Carmen Ortiz in Massachusetts; Paul Fishman in New Jersey; Timothy Heaphy in the Western District of Virginia; Neil MacBride in the Eastern District of Virginia; Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York; B. Todd Jones in Minnesota; and Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama.

Read our article here about the prestige the Attorney General can bring to U.S. Attorneys by attending their swearing-in ceremonies.

UPDATE May 24: Holder was unable to attend the ceremony for Machen after being called unexpectedly to a meeting at the White House. Click here to read our coverage.

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Friday, April 23rd, 2010

D.C. U.S. Attorney Ron Machen told criminal defense lawyers Wednesday that he intends to keep their caseloads full, The Blog of Legal Times reported.

Ron Machen (Ryan J. Reilly/Main Justice)

Machen, who became U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in February, said at an American Bar Association event that public corruption is the office’s “bread and butter,” but it will also put a renewed focus on mortgage fraud and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act cases.

“I think the sky’s the limit, frankly,” Machen said, according to The BLT. “So it’s good news and bad news for you guys. The bad news is, when you come to see me, I know the playbook because I was reading from it the past eight years. But the good news is, hopefully, we will keep you guys busy.”

The U.S. Attorney, who previously was with the Washington, D.C., office of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, said his prosecutors will also be “very aggressive” in combating health care fraud.

“We may not be the Southern District of New York overnight, but the SEC is located here and all the filings are here,” he said, according to the blog. “There’s a way to get venue here in most of these cases.”

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Friday, April 2nd, 2010

A former D.C. U.S. Attorney during the George W. Bush administration expressed support Friday for his former office’s handling of a request for an arrest warrant for a man who later allegedly participated in one of the worst shootings in District history.

Jeffrey Taylor (DOJ)

Jeffrey Taylor, who led the D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office from 2006 to 2009, told WTOP radio that the prosecutors acted appropriately when they decided not to request a warrant for the arrest of Orlando Carter in a homicide case. Days later, Carter allegedly participated in a drive-by shooting Tuesday night that led to four deaths and left five people wounded. The U.S. Attorney’s office decided not to act on the request from the D.C. police because prosecutors said there was not enough evidence at the time for a warrant.

D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, members of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and the father of those killed in the shooting have all criticized the U.S. Attorney’s office for not okaying the warrant for Carter’s arrest. The U.S. Attorney’s office is led by Ron Machen, an appointee of President Barack Obama who was sworn in a little more than a month ago.

“I think they made the decision they had to make,” Taylor told the news radio station. “Probable cause is one of the most difficult concepts to define in the criminal justice system.”

Taylor also commended the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who handle murder cases, calling them “the best homicide prosecutors in this country.”

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