Monday Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new task force that he is forming in order to achieve President Trump’s goal of dismantling “transnational criminal organizations” such as MS-13 and Lebanese Hezbollah.
“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 task force comes as a result of an Executive Order that President Trump issued in February 2017. This EO directed the Attorney General to “establish and to appoint or designate an individual or individuals to chair, a Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety (Task Force). The Attorney General shall, to the extent permitted by law, provide administrative support and funding for the Task Force.”
Shortly after the EO, Attorney General Sessions directed the FBI, DEA, Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) to “identify top transnational criminal groups.” The results of this review state that the top five transnational criminal groups are “MS-13, Cartel de Jalisco Generation (CJNG), Sinaloa Cartel, Clan del Golfo, and Lebanese Hezbollah.”
According to the Department of Justice press release, the director of the new TOC task force will be “Associate Deputy Attorney General Patrick Hovakimian,” who has served in Department leadership since early 2017.
Attorney General Sessions also appointed a new director of OCDETF, Adam Cohen, who 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.”
The statement explains that the TOC Task Force will be led by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who will oversee, “one subcommittee for each of the target groups.”
The subcommittees named leaders:
- Ms-13 — 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.
- CJNG — 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.
- Sinaloa Cartel — 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.
- Clan del Golfo — 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.
- Lebanese Hezbollah — 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.
The statement goes on to say, that this new task force “builds upon work that Attorney General Sessions has already done to dismantle these groups.”
Attorney General Sessions has given the newly formed task force ninety-days to “provide specific recommendations,” on how to “disrupt and dismantle,” the specifically named groups, “whether through prosecution, diplomacy, or other lawful means.”
For what it’s worth the Los Angeles Times is reporting that OCDETF was created in 1982 and until December it was led by Bruce Ohr.