The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that the prosecutorial muscle of the Northern District of Illinois will be strengthened with six new Assistant U.S. attorneys.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement along with John R. Lausch, Jr. the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois.
Four of the new Assistant U.S. Attorney positions will focus exclusively on violent crime. The other two positions will be assigned to the office’s Civil Division, focusing on immigration cases and affirmative civil enforcement actions, which seek to recover government money lost to fraud or to impose penalties for violations of federal laws.
Sessions called the new prosecutors “reinforcements” and said the Department of Justice “is going on offense against violent crime, illegal immigration, and the opioid crisis.”
He said he is making attacking violent crime a top priority.
“I have personally worked to re-purpose existing funds to support this critical mission, and as a former federal prosecutor myself, my expectations could not be higher.”
Lausch, a former prosecutor himself, said he “welcome(d) the additional resources to reduce violent crime, enforce our country’s immigration laws and fight the opioid epidemic. Our Assistant U.S. Attorneys work tirelessly to keep the citizens of northern Illinois safe, and these new positions will strengthen those efforts. We will work quickly to fill these positions with highly skilled, highly motivated attorneys.”
The six new positions bring to nine the number of new Assistant U.S. Attorney positions Sessions has authorized for the Chicago office since January.
Prosecutors are working closely with what is called the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The principal mission of OCDETF is to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations.
The effort is a continuation of the Project Safe Neighborhoods task forces that were formed under President George W. Bush in 2001. The program has been widely credited with helping local authorities deal with the challenge of violent crime related to drug dealing and illegal guns.
Since the new year, federal prosecutors in Chicago have obtained convictions in 19 cases involving drugs, weapons or both. In the past four months they have also brought indictments in five large scale drug trafficking investigations involving a total of 46 suspects.
—- Chicago getting six more federal prosecutors —-