Crime, Politics

U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur to leave Department of Justice

BALTIMORE, MD—United States Attorney Robert K. Hur on Wednesday announced that he would be resigning his position as the chief federal law enforcement officer for the District of Maryland. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland is one of the country’s largest and busiest, serving a population of more than six million. Hur will return to private law practice. Jonathan F. Lenzner, who has served as the First Assistant U.S. Attorney during Hur’s tenure, will become the Acting U.S. Attorney upon his departure.

Robert K. Hur took office on April 9, 2018. He tendered his resignation to the President and the Acting Attorney General on Wednesday, and will conclude his service as United States Attorney on February 15, 2021.

“I thank President Trump for appointing me as United States Attorney; Senators Cardin and Van Hollen for their support; Attorneys General Sessions and Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein for leading the Department of Justice during my service; and my law enforcement partners here in Maryland, including State’s Attorneys, police chiefs and sheriffs, and federal agency heads. I will always be grateful to have served as U.S. Attorney and helped further the Office’s proud legacy of pursuing justice with integrity, and without fear or favor,” said U.S. Attorney Hur.

“Credit for the Office’s accomplishments belongs to our talented team of dedicated professionals in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our brave law enforcement partners. I’m humbled by the bravery, creativity, and resilience that my colleagues have shown every day during my three years as U.S. Attorney. Together, we’ve worked tirelessly to bring criminals to justice, protect and provide recourse to victims and witnesses, and defend our nation against adversaries both foreign and domestic. We protected our traditions of integrity and continued our commitment to justice in the face of daunting challenges, including the longest federal government shutdown ever, tragic acts of violent extremism, and a frightening pandemic. For an attorney—especially a first-generation American like myself—representing the United States is a weighty privilege and a dream job. I have been blessed to do so.”

Under Hur’s leadership, the United States Attorney’s Office has brought sophisticated and impactful cases, hired dozens of attorneys from diverse backgrounds to bring the Office to its maximum staffing level, increased diversity within the Office’s supervisory ranks, enhanced its technology and physical space, improved internal processes, and strengthened relationships with critical law enforcement and regulatory partners at the local, state, and federal levels. A summary of the Office’s achievements during Hur’s tenure follows:

Public Corruption

U.S. Attorney Hur continued the Office’s focus on public corruption, which erodes the public’s trust in its elected officials and government. During the past three years, the Office has brought and resolved charges for corruption and/or fraud against dozens of elected officials, public office holders, and public employees. Examples include:

  • Former Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh,
  • Former Baltimore City Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa,
  • Former Maryland Delegate Cheryl Glenn,
  • Former Maryland Delegate Tawanna Gaines,
  • Former Maryland State Senator Nathaniel Oaks,
  • Members of the Baltimore City Police Department in connection with the Gun Trace Task Force investigation, and
  • Correctional officers at numerous state correctional facilities, including Eastern Correctional Institution, Jessup Correctional Institution, Maryland Correctional Institute Jessup, and Chesapeake Detention Facility.

National Security and Cybercrime

On the national security front, under Hur’s leadership, the Office protected Marylanders from significant terrorist threats, both international and domestic. The Office successfully prosecuted Christopher Hasson, a former Coast Guard officer who amassed an arsenal of weapons in preparation for violence inspired by extremist, white-supremacist views. The Office also charged Rondell Henry with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), in connection with his plans to drive a motor vehicle into crowds and inflict mass civilian casualties at National Harbor. Prosecutors in the Office also charged members of The Base, a racially motivated violent extremist group, who attended military-style training camps and planned to engage in subversive and criminal activity. Importantly, these terrorist plots were disrupted, and the individuals arrested, before any inflicting any harm or loss of life on our communities.

The Office also helped safeguard sensitive, classified information through the successful prosecution of two of the most significant breach cases in history: Harold Martin, a former National Security Agency (“NSA”) contractor who stole and retained classified material over two decades and stored it in his home and car, and Nghia Hoang Pho, a former NSA employee who removed and kept at his home massive troves of highly classified national defense information.

In recognition of the seriousness and volume of national security threats in Maryland, including cyber intrusions such as malware and ransomware, Hur created the Office’s first National Security and Cybercrime Section; doubled the number of prosecutors assigned to national security and cybercrime matters; designated the Office’s first Cybercrime Counsel to deepen expertise in and lead efforts against all manner of cyber threats; and designated prosecutors throughout the Office to become experts in such sub-fields as narcotics trafficking on the dark web and cryptocurrency.

Violent Crime and Gangs

The Office continued its commitment to reduce violent crime throughout Maryland. Together with local, state, and federal partners, the Office pursued a comprehensive strategy of violence reduction that includes proactive investigations targeting the most violent groups and clearing multiple homicides using federal racketeering statutes; federal gun prosecutions targeting repeat violent offenders; and focused deterrence programs using outreach and prisoner re-entry programs to prevent violent crime and defuse conflict before it happens.

The Office continued to secure important convictions of gang members responsible for gun violence and shooting homicides in Baltimore. These included Montana Barronette, who was sentenced to life in federal prison for participating in at least six murders and his leadership of Trained To Go, one of Baltimore’s most violent gangs; and Terrell Plummer, a member of the violent Old York Money Gang who shot and killed three-year-old McKenzie Elliott as she stood on her front porch during a gang dispute.

Under U.S. Attorney Hur’s leadership, the Office launched several initiatives aimed at curbing the historically high levels of gun violence driven by drug-trafficking organizations in Baltimore City. The Office and local, state, and federal law enforcement partners launched the Baltimore OCDETF Strike Force, aimed at disrupting and dismantling the most violent gangs and their financial infrastructure in the Baltimore metropolitan area. All Strike Force investigators work in one shared location, which is a key part of the Strike Force concept that has proven successful in other cities.

U.S. Attorney Hur also partnered with Governor Larry Hogan, Attorney General Brian Frosh, and Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to apply state funds to hire state prosecutors, who were then detailed to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate and prosecute federal firearms cases in federal court. In this way, stakeholders at all levels teamed with Baltimore Police Department officers and federal agents to ensure that armed felons with significant violent criminal histories are removed from our neighborhoods, then prosecuted and sentenced in federal court.

During Hur’s tenure, the Department of Justice directed millions of dollars in grant funds to the Baltimore Police Department and to violence-reduction efforts in Baltimore. The Justice Department selected Baltimore to participate in the National Public Safety Partnership (PSP) program, a three-year engagement that seeks to leverage department assets in support of a local jurisdiction’s commitment to drive down violent crime. Through this program, local, state, and federal officials in Baltimore work collaboratively to provide training and technical assistance in areas such as crime analytics, emerging technology, and community engagement.

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Under U.S. Attorney Hur’s leadership, the Office continued its decades-long focus on the fight against transnational gang La Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13. Having developed nationally recognized expertise in prosecuting MS-13 members with federal racketeering statutes, Maryland AUSAs indicted dozens of defendants during the last three years from the Fultons, Parkview, Langley Park, Sailors, and Los Ghettos Criminales cliques for violence committed in Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Frederick, and Prince George’s counties in Maryland as well as in Virginia. The Office also strengthened its ties with investigators and prosecutors in El Salvador, in order to coordinate enforcement actions, share evidence and intelligence, and fight the gang on both sides of the Atlantic. U.S. Attorney Hur traveled to El Salvador to meet with counterparts and to build valuable relationships with Salvadoran law enforcement.

Fraud

The Office successfully prosecuted complex fraud matters during Hur’s tenure, obtaining justice on behalf of financial fraud victims and preventing others from being victimized. The Office strengthened its partnership with the Securities and Exchange Commission, together bringing to justice the perpetrators of two massive Ponzi schemes: Kevin Merrill and his co-conspirators were convicted of running a $550 million investment fraud scheme—one of the largest ever charged in Maryland—that defrauded investors of their life savings across the country; Merrill was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison. Former financial advisor and radio personality Dawn Bennett was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for her conviction on 17 federal charges relating to her own $20 million Ponzi scheme.

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted fraudsters to take advantage of new opportunities to deceive members of the public, and the Office acted quickly to disrupt fraud schemes before losses mounted. In particular, the Office seized two domain names purporting to be websites of biotechnology companies developing treatments for COVID-19. These websites used similar names, trademarked logos, and graphics of actual companies to create fraudulent websites in order to obtain personal information of victims. Also, under U.S. Attorney Hur’s leadership, the Office entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Special Inspector General Brian D. Miller of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR), regarding the investigation and prosecution of fraud relating to CARES Act funding. The MOU allows the U.S. Attorney’s Office and SIGPR to enhance their cooperative efforts in investigating and prosecuting matters involving loans, loan guarantees and other investments made by the Secretary of the Treasury under the CARES Act.

U.S. Attorney Hur prioritized the development and strengthening of working relationships with Inspectors General throughout the Executive Branch, many of which investigate and refer fraud matters impacting Maryland. Hur also led the Office to join the Department of Justice Antitrust Division’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force (PCSF), which works nationwide to combat collusion, antitrust crimes and related fraudulent schemes, which undermine competition in government procurement, grant and program funding.

U.S. Attorney Hur and the Office also prioritized fraud schemes targeting elderly and vulnerable victims. The Office successfully prosecuted numerous defendants who used all manner of schemes to defraud the elderly, including obtaining and using fraudulent credit cards and falsely stating that a relative, typically a grandchild, needed money for bail, legal fees, or other expenses. During the COVID pandemic, Mr. Hur personally tried the first in-person federal jury trial in the Washington, D.C. area; the defendant was convicted of laundering the proceeds of a romance fraud scheme that used dating websites to target vulnerable and elderly victims and defraud them of millions of dollars.

Opioid Crisis

In response to Maryland’s crisis in opioid overdoses, U.S. Attorney Hur spearheaded the launch of the Office’s Synthetic Opioid Surge initiative (“S.O.S”). Pursuant to this initiative, every arrest in Baltimore City for fentanyl distribution is reviewed jointly by the State’s Attorney’s Office for Baltimore City, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Maryland to determine whether the case will be prosecuted in the state or federal system. Thanks to this partnership, S.O.S. prosecutions have resulted in significant federal sentences for armed, repeat offenders responsible for the distribution of substantial quantities of deadly fentanyl. The Office has also worked with State’s Attorneys throughout Maryland to target for federal prosecution narcotics traffickers who sell drugs that result in fatal overdoses, securing stiff federal sentences that disrupt the supply of fentanyl.

* * *

President Trump nominated Hur to be United States Attorney on November 1, 2017, and the Senate confirmed him unanimously on March 22, 2018. He took office on April 9, 2018.

As United States Attorney, he served as a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee of United States Attorneys (“AGAC”), which provides advice and counsel to the Attorney General on matters of policy, procedure, and management impacting the Offices of the United States Attorneys.

Before serving as U.S. Attorney, Hur served as the Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. In that position, Hur was a member of the Department’s senior leadership team and the top aide to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, assisting him with oversight of all components of the Department.

Hur served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Maryland from 2007 to 2014, where he prosecuted gang violence, firearms offenses, and narcotics trafficking, as well as white-collar offenses including financial institutions fraud, public corruption, mortgage fraud, tax offenses, computer network intrusions, and intellectual property theft. He received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award for superior performance and excellence as a lawyer.

Before serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Hur served as Special Assistant and later Counsel to Christopher Wray, then-Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Division, where he handled counterterrorism, corporate fraud, and appellate matters.

In addition to his service with the Department of Justice, Hur was a litigation partner with a law firm in Washington, D.C., where he represented companies and individuals facing criminal and regulatory enforcement actions before the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and other federal agencies, as well as related civil litigation.

Mr. Hur began his legal career as a law clerk for William H. Rehnquist, Chief Justice of the United States, and Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He received his A.B. degree, magna cum laude with highest honors, from Harvard College. He received his J.D. from Stanford Law School, where he served as Executive Editor of the Stanford Law Review.

Upon United States Attorney Hur’s departure, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner will serve as Acting U.S. Attorney under the Vacancies Reform Act until a replacement is named.

Lenzner first joined the United States Attorney’s Office as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in 2010. He previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office from 2004 to 2010. He served as an Assistant United States Attorney in Maryland until 2013, departing for a position in the private sector. Upon returning to the Office as United States Attorney, Hur appointed Lenzner his First Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“Throughout my tenure, Jon has been my principal partner and advisor, and much of the Office’s recent innovation and success are attributable to him,” Hur said. “I have utmost confidence in him. The Office and its legacy are in supremely talented and experienced hands.”

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