NEW YORK — A senior U.S. Attorney on Saturday suggested that federal prosecutors will put an emphasis on fighting cyber crimes and enforcing environmental laws next year.
Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones, who is the chairman of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of U.S. Attorneys, said U.S. Attorneys will meet in November to discuss efforts to target Internet criminals and violators of environmental laws, in addition to conferring about work on national security, civil rights and health care fraud issues.
“The U.S. Attorney conference in this coming November is really focused in on a couple of areas and … this will give you some clues of us trying to pivot from a reactive mode to a proactive mode,” Jones said at the annual National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys conference.
Jones said his colleagues are finding that the Internet is a major platform for criminal activities, including child pornography production and fraud. He said they plan to discuss efforts to move beyond existing means for dealing with cyber criminals, and train prosecutors to better handle these matters.
The U.S. Attorney also said his counterparts will meet with officials from various federal agencies to increase their knowledge of environmental criminal enforcement, in light of matters like the BP oil spill this summer.
But Jones said the conference will also reemphasize some of the existing priorities of the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder.
The U.S. Attorney said the upcoming conference will have a “pretty good section of time” for discussion on civil rights issues. He noted that Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Civil Rights Division has boosted efforts to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and combat human trafficking.
Jones also said “some time” will be devoted to talks on health care fraud. The DOJ under Holder has expanded its Medicare Fraud Strike Force and taken advantage of new powers approved by Congress to better combat health care fraud.
But the U.S. Attorney said national security issues remain at the forefront of the DOJ’s agenda as “the saga continues.”
“I think bottom line [is] each U.S. Attorney new or holdover or acting understands that mission number one for us really is the national security challenge,” Jones said.
For more coverage of the 2010 National Association of Former U.S. Attorney’s conference in New York, click here.
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James M. Rosenbaum, a former Minnesota U.S. Attorney, in August will step down from his post as a U.S. District Judge, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. Rosenbaum was the state’s top federal prosecutor from 1981 to 1985, when he became a U.S. District Judge for the District of Minnesota, a position he has held for 25 years.
In an April 13 letter to his colleagues on the court, Rosenbaum wrote, “Serving this past quarter-century as a Federal judge, and for the preceding four years as United States Attorney, has been an extraordinary honor and a professional pleasure,” adding, “I have always been impressed with the quality, competence, talent and professionalism of Minnesota’s federal employees. Thank you all so much for your help and willingness to assist me as I have worked to fulfill my duties.”
Rosenbaum wrote that he plans to pursue alternative dispute resolution and work on “complex legal and discovery matters.”
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A $2 million American Indian detention center for youth offenders remains empty and non-functioning five years after it was built using Justice Department grants, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul reported Sunday.
The center was finished in 2005 and the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, Minnesota’s most cash-strapped tribe, expected the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs to request more than $1 million a year to help run the 13,000-square-foot, 24-bed facility. But the BIA never requested the funding and the tribe said it does not have the money to operate the center. The tribe has now hired lawyers to take the federal government to court.
The plight of the Red Lake Band has caught the attention of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and has frustrated former Minnesota U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger.
Heffelfinger told the Star Tribune that the delay on opening the facility is “ridiculous.”
“Just putting the bricks and mortar up and then walking away doesn’t solve the problem,” Heffelfinger told the newspaper.
A 2004 inspector general report of the Bureau of Indian Affairs was highly critical of efforts to open up more American Indian jails. According to the Star Tribune, the report said the detention program was “a national disgrace” that was hampered by “crisis of inaction, indifference, and mismanagement.”
The DOJ and Bureau of Indian Affairs declined to comment to the newspaper.
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Forbes magazine last week released its list of the top 10 CEOs who “showed enough greed, hubris and chutzpah” to give confessed Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff “a run for his (stolen) money.”
We’ve added some information that Forbes left off its list — the top federal prosecutors who get to go after these alleged financial fraudsters, even though some of the investigations began before their time.
Winning a conviction in a high-profile financial case adds a notch to a U.S. Attorney’s belt. A prosecutor might even get to step out at a news conference or two, as Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did on Nov. 5 when announcing insider trading arrests related to the Galleon hedge fund run by billionaire Raj Rajaratnam.
To be sure, not everyone on the Forbes list is accused of an actual crime. With that caveat, we present Forbes’s “Biggest CEO Outrages of 2009″ list:
1. Lloyd Blankfein. The chairman and CEO made $73 million in 2007 and $25 million in 2008, as the economy entered a deep recession. Although his salary is not a legal offense, Forbes deemed it practically criminal.
2. John Thain. The former CEO of Merrill Lynch approved $3.62 billion in bonuses for his executives last December as the company was being taken over by Bank of America and reporting a fourth-quarter loss of $15.3 billion.
3. Raj Rajaratnam. The founder of the hedge fund Galleon Group was charged with insider trading which allegedly helped him earn more than $33 million in illicit profits. He is being prosecuted in Manhattan by Bharara’s office.
4. Byrraju Ramalinga Raju. The founder of the Indian outsourcing company Satyam Computer Services in January confessed to overstating the company’s profits and fabricating its cash balance of more than $1 billion. He hasn’t been charged.
5. Thomas Petters. The former CEO and chairman of Petters Group Worldwide was charged with orchestrating a $3.5 billion pyramid scheme fraud. He is being prosecuted by the office of Minnesota U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones.
6. Edward M. Liddy. The former CEO of American International Group (AIG) faced criticism this year for high salaries and bonuses in addition to expensive retreats the company funded after receiving a considerable sum as part of the bank bailout of 2008.
7. Danny Pang. The founder of Private Equity Management Group was accused of running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded his investors of hundreds of millions of dollars. Pangdied of an apparent suicide in September at age 42. Had he lived, he would have been prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles, currently headed by acting U.S. Attorney George S. Cardona.
8. R. Allen Stanford. The Texas financier allegedly sold $7 billion worth of certificates of deposit through his Stanford International Bank and misappropriated most of the money. He is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, currently headed by interim U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson. UPDATE: Stanford also is being prosecuted by the fraud section of DOJ’s criminal division.
9. David Rubin. The head of CDR Financial Products was indicted in October on charges of conspiracy and fraud related to rigging auctions to help determine which banks would assist governments in raising money. He will be prosecuted by Bharara’s office in Manhattan.
10. Robert Moran. The CEO of Moran Yacht & Ship pleaded guilty to tax fraud to avoid indictment. He also promised to pay back taxes and penalties and cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service. He was prosecuted by the office of R. Alexander Acosta, then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
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Attorneys General rarely venture out of Washington to attend swearing-in ceremonies for new U.S. Attorneys, according to former Justice Department officials. But Eric Holder has done so three times — deploying the power of his office to anoint rising stars or draw subtle contrasts with the Bush administration.
So far this year, Holder has attended the ceremonial investitures for U.S. Attorneys Joyce Vance in the Northern District of Alabama, B. Todd Jones in Minnesota and Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York. Both Vance and Jones run offices that were in turmoil during the Bush administration, and Holder — who has said he wants to restore professionalism to the Justice Department — emphasized the department’s new direction by attending the ceremonies.
At the same time, Jones is also an old friend of Holder, while Vance is a respected veteran who is considered an up-and-comer in the department.
And in Manhattan, Bharara heads the largest and most prestigious U.S. Attorney office outside Washington, which prosecutes high-profile financial fraud and national security cases. Bharara is also close to an important Democratic ally on the Hill, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Bharara was Schumer’s chief counsel before he was confirmed as U.S. Attorney.
Holder’s visits show his willingness to deploy the authority of his office for public relations purposes and to build internal morale. But it remains fairly unusual for an Attorney General to attend swearing-in ceremonies, according to ex-U.S. Attorneys.
The Justice Department doesn’t keep formal count, according to a DOJ spokesperson. It’s unclear how many — if any — ceremonies President George W. Bush’s first AG John Ashcroft attended. Ashcroft told Main Justice in that he couldn’t recall. Also, many of the federal prosecutors who were sworn in under Ashcroft arrived not long after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — not a time for pomp and circumstance. Still, Bush’s first AG commended Holder for attending investitures.
“The more you attend, the better,” Ashcroft said, adding that during his four years of service, he eventually visited about half of the U.S. Attorneys offices.
Ron Woods, National Association of Former U.S. Attorneys executive director, told Main Justice that Attorneys General have attended investitures for the District of Columbia U.S. Attorney in the past. But he said their appearances at swearing-in ceremonies outside of Washington are “fairly rare.”
“Our members recall the Attorney General making office visits during their term, but not individual investitures,” said Woods, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas from 1990 to 1993. “Keep in mind that there are 93 U. S. Attorneys and most of the investitures will occur within a few months of each other. That would be a significant commitment of time and travel by the Attorney General.”
Holder developed close relationships with the federal prosecutorial community while serving President Bill Clinton as District of Columbia U.S. Attorney and later as Deputy Attorney General, former prosecutors interviewed by Main Justice said. Only three of the last 10 Attorneys General worked as federal prosecutors before becoming the nation’s top cop.
One of the prosecutors Holder got to know was Jones, who was the Minnesota U.S. Attorney during the Clinton administration. Shortly after Jones returned as U.S. Attorney in August, Holder named him chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys in Washington.
But an Attorney General does not show up to an investiture just to say hello to an old friend, according to former DOJ officials. The nation’s top federal prosecutor also attends swearing-in ceremonies for political and public relations reasons.
An official trip to a U.S. Attorney’s office by an Attorney General for an investiture or another event will often attract the media, which will draw attention to the office. It is also an opportunity to energize prosecutors in the field. ”When the Attorney General shows up, it shows the importance of the work being done,” Ashcroft told Main Justice.
A Justice Department spokesperson told Main Justice in August that Holder’s first trip to a U.S. Attorney investiture was part of ongoing effort by the Attorney General to reach out to the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ offices.
“The Attorney General is making it a priority to visit U.S. Attorneys’ offices around the country to personally meet with prosecutors and other staff to hear firsthand about the cases they’re working on, the issues they face, and ways in which he can help them do their jobs,” spokesperson Hannah August said this summer. “The visit to the Northern District of Alabama was made to coincide with U.S. Attorney Vance’s swearing-in.”
Regardless of the Attorney’s General reasons behind a trip to a U.S. Attorney’s office, former prosecutors told Main Justice that a visit by the nation’s top federal prosecutor has a major impact on the office. ”It is very meaningful when the Attorney General visits,” said John Richter, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma from 2005 to 2009.
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Attorney General Eric Holder praised Minnesota’s new U.S. Attorney before more than 300 people at his investiture in Minneapolis, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones previously served as Minnesota’s top federal prosecutor during the Clinton administration. He is the first Senate-confirmed Minnesota U.S. Attorney since Bush appointee Rachel Paulose was reassigned in November 2007 amid an ethics investigation and the resignations of top prosecutors who objected to her management style. Jones announced this week that he promoted two of those prosecutors who’d been Paulose critics.
“Todd will be an integral part of the Justice Department team we’ve assembled to keep the American people safe, restore the credibility of a department badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference, and reinvigorate our traditional law enforcement missions,” said Holder at the event, according to the news release.
He also attended the swearing in ceremony for Northern District of Alabama U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance last month. Vance succeeded Alice Martin, who came under criticism by Democrats and liberals who charged her prosecuting decisions were partisan.
Holder added that Jones is also the new chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. The AGAC is an influential policy-making and advisory body that serves as the voice of the U.S. Attorneys in Washington.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who recommended Jones to President Obama, lauded the U.S. Attorney further. She said at the ceremony that he is part of a “long tradition of outstanding U.S. Attorneys.”
“Todd brings integrity and independence to a U.S. Attorney’s office already respected for its professionalism,” Klobuchar said at the event, according to the news release. “He understands the role of a prosecutor is to enforce the laws and ensure justice is done, without fear or favor. He’s done that before, and I know he’ll do it again.”
The Minnesota U.S. Attorney said he was honored to serve as U.S. Attorney again.
“The opportunity to serve our country again is one I will always cherish,” Jones said at the event, according to the news release. “The four simple words embedded somewhere on the wall of every federal courthouse in the land – equal justice under law – represent a bedrock principle upon which our great nation will continue to thrive. They are words intended to guide us every day as we represent the people of the United States as members of the Department of Justice.”
Jones officially took office in August, but he did not have a public swearing-in ceremony at the time.
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The veteran prosecutor who led the troubled Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s Office for 20 months after controversial Bush appointee Rachel Paulose was reassigned has been named to a new leadership post, the office announced today.
Frank Magill, who stepped down as Minnesota’s top federal prosecutor last month, will be counsel to newly confirmed U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. Magill was named acting U.S. Attorney in January 2008, after Paulose’s interregnum came to an end in November 2007. His appointment was viewed as a way to heal the rifts in the office, Minnesota Public Radio reported at the time.
Jones previously served as Minnesota U.S. Attorney in the Clinton adminstration, from 1998 to 2001, and had worked with Magill, who’s been a prosecutor in the office since 1990.
Paulose’s tenure was marked by politics and turbulence. She was appointed by then-U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in February 2006 as an interim U.S. Attorney, at the age of 32. The Senate later confirmed her in December 2006.
Her predecessor, Tom Heffelfinger, was on a list of U.S. Attorneys slated for firing compiled by Kyle Sampson, Gonzales’ chief of staff. Heffelfinger, however, resigned before the firings.
During her short tenure, Paulose became a focus of complaints that the Bush Justice Department promoted some prosecutors based on ideology instead of competence. Several of her top managers stepped down in protest of her leadership style, including former First Assistant John Marti and former criminal division chief James Lackner.
Paulose demoted Marti in April 2007 after he reported her for mishandling classified documents. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel, an executive branch agency that deals with whistle-blower cases, determined last year that Paulose retaliated against Marti. The complaint ended Paulose’s tenure; she was reassigned to a non-supervisory position in the Office of Legal Policy at Main Justice in November 2007 while the OSC investigated. Paulose is now at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Miami, we reported last month.
Jones made Marti his First Assistant and Lackner the office’s appellate chief, according the U.S. Attorney’s office announcement. We reported last month that Jones intended to make Marti his deputy.
Here are the appointments made by Jones, with biographies from the U.S. Attorney’s office:
- Frank Magill (Counsel to the U.S. Attorney)
Before the appointment, he served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from January 2008 to August 2009 and First Assistant U.S. Attorney from July 2007 to January 2008. From 1998 to July 2007, he headed the Office’s economic crimes section. Magill, who joined the Office in 1990, graduated from Georgetown University in 1981 and earned his law degree from the Georgetown Law Center in 1985. Prior to his tenure with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Magill was employed at the Dorsey & Whitney law firm in Minneapolis.
- John Marti (First Assistant)
Prior to this appointment, Marti worked in the Office’s economic crimes section, prosecuting financial and public corruption crimes. Marti, who joined the Office in November 2000, also was the First Assistant U.S. Attorney from December 2006 to April 2007. Marti is a 1985 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a 1991 graduate of the University of Oregon School of Law. Before joining the Office, Marti served as a Trial Attorney with the Fraud Section of the U.S. Department of Justice’s criminal division in Washington D.C. and on active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps.
- James Lackner (Appellate Chief)
Prior to this appointment, Lackner served as Senior Litigation Counsel from December 1994 to August 2005; Criminal Division Chief from August 2005 to April 2007; and First Assistant U.S. Attorney from March 2006 to December 2006. Lackner, who joined the Office in December 1983, graduated from Macalester College in 1975 and Northwestern University Law School in 1978. He joined the Office after working in the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office.
- Andrew S. Dunne (Criminal Division Chief)
Before this appointment, Dunne served as the Office’s narcotics crimes section chief from 1997 to September 2006 and was an Assistant Director for Criminal Programs at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, S.C., from 2007-2009. Dunne is a 1980 graduate of Springfield College (Mass.) and a 1986 graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School. Before joining the Office in February 1990, Dunne worked at the law firm of Faegre & Benson in Minneapolis.
- Greg G. Brooker (Civil Division Chief)
Brooker was named to that post in 2007. Prior to that appointment, Brooker, who joined the Office in 1999, practiced law in the civil division. Brooker is a 1982 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a 1985 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. Brooker clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court Justice George M. Scott from 1985-1986, worked at the law firm of Popham, Haik from 1986-1992 and served as an assistant city attorney for the City of Bloomington from 1992-1999.
- Joseph T. Dixon III (Economic Crimes Section Chief)
Dixon has served in that capacity since January 2008. Before then, he served as Senior Litigation Counsel and worked in the Office’s economic crimes, narcotics and major crimes crimes sections. Dixon graduated in 1991 from the University of Wisconsin and earned his law degree in 1995 from the Columbia School of Law. He clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Eighth Circuit Judge Gerald W. Heaney from 1995-1996. Prior to joining the Office in January 2001, Dixon worked for the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York.
- Michelle E. Jones (Major Crimes Section Chief)
She has held that position since March 2008. Jones, who began her career in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in March 2000, is a 1989 graduate of the University of California at Berkley and a 1992 graduate of Harvard Law School. She clerked for Massachusetts Appeals Court Justice Frederick L. Brown from 1992-1993 and U.S. District of Minnesota Judge James M. Rosenbaum from 1993-1995. Before accepting a job with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Jones was employed at the law firm of Howrey & Simon in Washington, D.C.
- Carol M. Kayser (Narcotics Crimes Section Chief)
Prior to that appointment, she worked in the major crimes section. Kayser also served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia from 1999-2008. Kayser is a 1983 graduate of Northwestern University and a 1988 graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. Before her employment with the Justice Department, Kayser served as an assistant district attorney for Dekalb County, Georgia.
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Four Obama U.S. Attorneys were sworn in today, according to U.S. Attorney spokespersons and news reports.
-Tristram Coffin, Vermont U.S. Attorney
Coffin succeeded Paul J. Van de Graaf, who resigned as U.S. Attorney in February. Coffin was at Burlington, Vt. law firm Paul Frank & Collins from 2006 to 2009. Prior to joining the firm, he spent 12 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Vermont office.
-Preet Bharara, Southern District of New York U.S.
Bharara succeeded Michael J. Garcia, who resigned as U.S. Attorney in December. Bharara was chief counsel to Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the Senate Judiciary Committee staff from 2005 to 2009. Before that, he spent five years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District.
-John Kacavas, New Hampshire U.S. Attorney
Kacavas succeeded Tom Colantuono, who resigned as U.S. Attorney in March. He was a partner at Manchester, N.H. law firm Kacavas Ramsdell & Howard, which he co-founded in 2002.
-B. Todd Jones, Minnesota U.S. Attorney
Jones is the first Senate-confirmed Minnesota U.S. Attorney since Bush appointee Rachel Paulose stepped down in November 2007 amid resignation threats from top prosecutors in Minneapolis who objected to her management style. Jones was the Minnesota U.S. Attorney during the Clinton administration. He most recently worked at Minneapolis law firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. (A spokesperson for the Minnesota U.S. Attorney’s office told Main Justice Friday that Jones was sworn in Thursday. The aide didn’t respond to a message left Thursday regarding the swearing in date for Jones.)
Northern District of Alabama interim U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance will be sworn in as U.S. Attorney in a Aug. 27 ceremony that Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to attend.
Read our report on the five U.S. Attorney confirmations last week here.
This post was updated from an earlier version.
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Senator-elect Al Franken will serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Congressional Quarterly reported this afternoon.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) was temporarily holding onto the comedian-turned-politician’s seat on the panel, according to CQ. Franken, a Democrat, claimed the disputed Minnesota seat after the state supreme court ruled today that he received more votes than his Republican challenger, former Sen. Norm Coleman.
The Senate plans to swear in Franken next week following the Fourth of July holiday. In theory, Franken will give the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority. With a united block of 60 Democratic senators, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could finally schedule votes on DOJ nominees Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel, Thomas Perez for the Civil Rights Division and Mary L. Smith for the Tax Division.
But Franken’s seating might not be enough to schedule votes on the nominations or push through the long-stalled Johnsen.
Democratic Sens. Edward Kennedy (Mass.) and Robert Byrd (W.Va.) have been absent from Congress with severe health problems. Byrd was released from the hospital today after battling a staph infection for a month. It is unclear when he will be back to cast votes. Kennedy is being treated for brain cancer. He has said he will try to come back to Washington this summer to work on health care legislation.
Even if one of the ailing senators is able to cast votes, the DOJ nominations could still be held up. The Senate Judiciary Committee reported the Johnsen nomination to the Senate for consideration on March 19. Byrd was present to vote in the Senate until mid-May. Kennedy was present intermittently throughout March and April to cast votes.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved U.S. Attorney nominees John Paul Kacavas for the District of New Hampshire and B. Todd Jones for the District of Minnesota late this afternoon.
The meeting was originally scheduled for noon today, but was postponed due to the length of an earlier committee hearing.
The panel unanimously approved last week U.S. Attorney nominees Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York, Tristram Coffin for the District of Vermont and Joyce Vance for the Northern District of Alabama. The panel still must consider the U.S. Attorney nominations of Jenny Durkan for the Western District of Washington and Paul Fishman for the District of New Jersey, which the White House forwarded to the Senate last month.
The full Senate must still approve the nominees before they can become U.S. Attorneys.