Nicola T. Hanna, the US attorney for the Central District of California, is stepping down this week from leading the Los Angeles federal prosecutor’s office, where he has overseen the 280 attorneys prosecuting federal law violations for three years. Represented the United States in civil disputes and national security issues in a seven-county district with a population of 20 million.
Hanna, who was temporarily appointed to office in January 2018 and confirmed three months later by the US Senate, submitted his resignation to President Trump and the incumbent Atty on Monday. Gene. Jeffrey A. Rosen. Hanna’s last day in office is Friday, after which he plans to return to the private sector. First assistant US Atty. Tracy L. Wilkison will fill the actress position.
“This was an opportunity to serve the public like no other,” Hanna said in an interview.
59-year-old Hanna had worked as a line attorney in US law firms in Los Angeles and San Diego in the 1990s before entering the private practice.
When he left a partnership with a world-class law firm to head the Los Angeles office in 2018, he found it had been restored by the 9/11 attacks and the so-called “internationalization” of crime. The office had a national security department, prosecutors and agents were trying to fend off cyberattacks by foreign actors, and revenue from complex fraud cases was increasingly boosting overseas.
“So much work is international now,” said Hanna.
After taking office, Hanna set his priorities as the top Internet crime, including dark web marketplaces. Distributors of synthetic opioids that cause fatal overdoses; and public corruption.
“Public corruption was one of my top priorities,” he said. “Here we bring unique skills that we can use to find people who are basically selling their offices.”
After years of investigation into the sordid interplay between elected leaders, developers and lobbyists at Los Angeles City Hall, councilors Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander were indicted last year along with a number of others including a deputy mayor and a city council advisor.
Another priority was trying to contain fatal overdoses.
“If you had a friend or sibling who died, nothing really happened,” said Hanna.
Prosecutors and agents focused on the vendors selling lethal doses – typically fentanyl or other drugs with the strong synthetic opioid added, often without the user’s knowledge.
Los Angeles prosecutors have accused about a dozen people of delivering drugs that resulted in fatal overdoses.
Among them are Ed Buck, accused of giving fatal doses of methamphetamine to two men who died in his West Hollywood apartment, and Cameron James Pettit, who was accused of fake oxycodone pills two days before the rapper overdosed having sold fentanyl to Mac Miller has died.
Many of the cases filed during Hanna’s tenure have made headlines – the cascade of charges and confessions of guilt that rocked LA City Hall, charges against a North Korean hacker involved in the brazen attack on Sony Pictures, the arrest of dozens Indicted by members of the MS-13 gang for dismemberment in the Angeles National Forest – but one less publicized case, Hanna said, sticks in his mind.
In April 2015, Ali F. Elmezayen drove his car off a quay in San Pedro. Elmezayen swam out the window of the sinking car; His wife, who couldn’t swim, survived after a fisherman threw her a flotation device. Elmezayen’s two sons, ages 13 and 8, both severely autistic, were strapped into the car and drowned.
Elmezayen had taken out millions of dollars in life and casualty insurance for his family, investigators learned. After the death of his sons, he raised $ 260,000 and spent some of the money on a boat and real estate in Egypt.
“He was essentially getting away with it until some young people [assistant U.S. attorneys] decided to do follow-up examinations, ”said Hanna.
The federal prosecutor’s office accused Elmezayen of fraud, money laundering and identity theft in 2018. Elmezayen has been tried in court and is awaiting conviction. District attorneys have since charged Elmezayen with the murders of his sons.
Hanna’s office has also initiated a manslaughter against the captain of the submersible Conception, who burned with 33 passengers below deck to the waterline off Santa Barbara. All passengers and one crew member were killed.
“It took some time,” said Hanna of the investigation, which lasted 15 months before Captain Jerry Boylan was charged. “It’s complicated, tragic and sad.”
Hanna sees the office continue to focus on investigating money laundering, which Los Angeles is still a center for. A new task force was set up a few months ago to address not only drug traffickers – the traditional perpetrators of international money laundering – but “the fraudsters, the fraudsters who get their money out of the country the same way”.
Hanna said it remains to be seen how the U.S. prosecution will affect the changes in the LA district attorney’s office, where new district attorney George Gascón has promised to reduce the number of people who send his MPs to jail for how long .
Hanna’s spokesman, on the other hand, noted in a statement announcing his resignation that Los Angeles federal prosecutors had increased the number of defendants they had indicted by 41% from 2017, before the COVID-19 pandemic nearly broke the trial brought to a standstill.
Going forward, Hanna said he expected local law enforcement agencies to bring more cases to federal prosecutors for an examination, especially investigators who work with federal agents on task forces investigating human trafficking, gun races, and gangs.
However, he also noted that the office has 200 attorneys handling all federal criminal and national security law violations in a seven-county, 20-million-person jurisdiction.
“We can’t be the prosecutor,” he said. “We cannot do all cases.”
Hanna said the federal attorney’s role should be “added value” to urban and county law enforcement to pursue “the most violent, dangerous, those who have the most complex plans that require long-term investigation where local resources may not be sufficient.” out. “