The U.S. Justice Department announced a series of measures to dismantle transnational criminal organizations.
“The day I was sworn in as Attorney General, President Trump sent me an executive order to dismantle transnational criminal organizations—the gangs and cartels who flood our streets with drugs and violence,” Attorney General Sessions said. “We embrace that order and we carry it out every single day. Today, to increase our effectiveness, I am putting in place new leadership to drive our transnational organized crime efforts and forming a Transnational Organized Crime Task Force of experienced prosecutors that will coordinate and optimize the Department’s efforts to take each of these groups off of our streets for good.”
The Attorney General has appointed Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian to serve as the Department’s first Director of Counter Transnational Organized Crime. Hovakimian has served in Department leadership since early 2017 and also as an AUSA in the Southern District of California, where he is co-lead counsel in a series of transnational public corruption and fraud cases. In addition to his duties as federal prosecutor, earlier this year the President nominated and the U.S. Senate confirmed Hovakimian to serve as a Commissioner of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the United States.
Attorney General Sessions has appointed Adam Cohen as the new Director of Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF). Cohen is currently the Chief of the Criminal Division Special Operations Unit’s Office of Enforcement Operations and has served in the Criminal Division for 10 years. He has also served as an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) for five years and as a state prosecutor in Florida for seven years. He also led the National Gang Targeting Enforcement and Coordination Center for nearly three years and has served as a Deputy Chief of the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Section. He is a past recipient of the Assistant Attorney General’s Award for Reduction and Deterrence of Violent and Organized Crime, as well as the DEA Administrator’s Award for his work to counter narcotics trafficking.
On February 9, 2017, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order 13773, which directed the federal government to “ensure that Federal law enforcement agencies give a high priority and devote sufficient resources to efforts to identify, interdict, disrupt, and dismantle transnational criminal organizations[.]”
Following this Executive Order, Attorney General Sessions directed the FBI, DEA, OCDETF, and the Department’s Criminal Division to identify top transnational criminal groups that threaten the safety and prosperity of the United States and its allies. As a result of that review, the Attorney General is designating the following criminal groups as top transnational organized crime threats:
• Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG)
• Sinaloa Cartel
• Clan del Golfo, and
• Lebanese Hezbollah.
The Attorney General’s TOC Task Force will be led by the Deputy Attorney General and will be composed of experienced prosecutors. It will be organized into one subcommittee for each of the target groups.
The subcommittee on MS-13 will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. AUSA Durham has played a significant role in the FBI’s Long Island Task Force, which has arrested hundreds of MS-13 members.
The subcommittee on Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion will be led by Trial Attorney Brett Reynolds of the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section of the Department’s Criminal Division. Reynolds has led or co-led several investigations into the Cartel that have led to indictments of some of its highest ranking members.
The subcommittee on the Sinaloa Cartel will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Sutton of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California. AUSA Sutton prosecuted several Sinaloa kingpins and led multiple international investigations targeting Sinaloa Cartel leaders, resulting in seizures of millions of dollars in drug proceeds and thousands of kilograms of illicit drugs.
The subcommittee on Clan del Golfo will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Emery of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. AUSA Emery has secured convictions against the top leadership of Clan del Golfo, including kingpin Henry de Jesus Lopez Londoño, who commanded over 1,000 armed men for the cartel.
The subcommittee on Lebanese Hezbollah will be led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilan Graff of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. AUSA Graff is overseeing the prosecution of two alleged members of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization, the first such operatives to be charged with terrorism offenses in the United States.
Attorney General Sessions has ordered each of these subcommittees to provide specific recommendations within 90 days on how to disrupt and dismantle TOC, whether through prosecution, diplomacy, or other lawful means.
This new Task Force builds upon work that Attorney General Sessions has already done to dismantle these groups. On January 11, 2018, Attorney General Sessions established the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team (HFNT), a group of experienced international narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime, and money laundering prosecutors. HFNT prosecutors and investigators are tasked with investigating individuals and networks providing support to Hezbollah, and pursuing prosecutions in any appropriate cases. The new subcommittee—which will be staffed and led by HFNT members—will aid the ongoing work of the HFNT.
On October 23, 2017, Attorney General Sessions formally designated MS-13 as a priority target for OCDETF.
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