United States Attorney Nick Hanna announced Monday that he will resign his position as the chief federal prosecutor for the Central District of California.
While serving as the top federal law enforcement officer in the Los Angeles-based district for the past three years, Mr. Hanna oversaw approximately 280 Assistant U.S. Attorneys who staff the largest Justice Department office outside of Washington D.C.
Hanna tendered his resignation to the President and the Acting Attorney General Monday and will conclude his service as United States Attorney on January 8.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the 20 million people in our district for the last three years,” Hanna said. “I have seen firsthand government at its best, with our talented lawyers and staff working side-by-side with our brave federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in pursuit of justice. While we’ve had many significant accomplishments during my tenure, all of the credit for these successes belongs to these hardworking and dedicated professionals.
“The work we have done together has resonated throughout our district, across the nation, and around the world,” he said. “We have worked tirelessly to bring criminals to justice, provide recourse to people whose rights have been violated, and defend the United States and its citizens from adversaries both foreign and domestic. We’ve achieved this despite the challenges of the longest federal government shutdown in history, widespread social unrest, and a pandemic that has upended our lives. Over the past three years, our office has lived up to its proud legacy of pursuing justice without fear or favor, and I am profoundly humbled to have had the opportunity to lead one of the premier U.S. Attorney’s offices in the country.”
Under Hanna’s leadership, attorneys in the office have brought and litigated some of the most sophisticated and impactful cases in the nation, dozens of attorneys have been hired to bring the office to its maximum staffing level, and relationships with law enforcement partners have been strengthened.
Amid a string of important public corruption cases, federal prosecutors conducted an extensive investigation focusing on a pay-to-play scheme at Los Angeles City Hall, resulting in criminal charges against two former city councilmen, a former deputy mayor, and a billionaire real estate developer, among others.
Fraud prosecutors brought a multi-faceted case against attorney Michael Avenatti, and they worked with lawyers in the office’s Civil Division to negotiate a $3 billion settlement with Wells Fargo to resolve allegations that the bank engaged in fraudulent sales practices for more than a decade.
In response to the nation’s opioid crisis, the office helped stand up an Opioid Overdose Response Team, which targets narcotics traffickers who sell drugs that result in fatal overdoses. This program has resulted in approximately one dozen prosecutions, including the case against West Hollywood resident Ed Buck and those who allegedly provided the drugs that killed rapper Mac Miller.
To combat violent crime, the office brought charges against more than 300 gang members, including alleged narcotics traffickers, gun runners and MS-13 members accused of committing a series of grisly murders.
In the largest asset forfeiture in U.S. history, prosecutors seized more than $1 billion in assets related to the 1MBD Malaysian banking scandal. Prosecutors recently filed criminal charges against the captain of the Conception, a dive boat that burned and sank off the Santa Barbara coast in September 2019, killing 33 passengers and one crew member.
And, an Orange County man is pending trial on charges of killing his ex-girlfriend when he allegedly planted a bomb that destroyed an Aliso Viejo day spa. The office also won a guilty verdict at trial against Ali Elmezayen, a Hawthorne man who drowned his two disabled children to fraudulently collect on insurance policies he had taken out on their lives.
On the national security front, under Mr. Hanna’s leadership, the office helped shut down one of the world’s largest dark web marketplaces, convicted at trial a Chinese researcher on economic espionage charges, and indicted a suspected domestic terrorist who allegedly plotted to bomb a political rally at a Long Beach park. Prosecutors also brought charges against a North Korean operative who allegedly committed one of the most sophisticated nation-state cybercrimes in history – the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment and other high-profile targets.
During Hanna’s tenure, the office hired nearly 100 new prosecutors, enhanced its technology and physical space, streamlined internal processes, and continued to invest significant time and effort to deepen relationships with our partners in federal, state, and local law enforcement.
Prior to the pandemic’s grip tightening in March 2020, the office increased the number of criminal defendants charged by more than 41 percent compared with 2017 levels. Over the last three years, the office has recovered nearly $4.5 billion in criminal penalties, civil recoveries, forfeited assets, and restitution. Since 2018, the office has returned more than $148 million in restitution to crime victims.
Hanna was appointed interim United States Attorney in January 2018 by United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. President Trump later nominated Hanna to be United States Attorney in February 2018, and he was confirmed by the Senate on April 26, 2018.
While serving as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles from 1990 to 1994, Hanna prosecuted major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations, as well as violent and economic crimes. From 1995 to 1998, Hanna served as an Assistant United States Attorney in San Diego, where he focused on investigating and prosecuting international drug cartels.
For almost 20 years, until his appointment as United States Attorney, Hanna was a partner at the law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. Hanna received his B.A. from the University of California, San Diego, and his J.D., magna cum laude, from Georgetown University.
Once Hanna’s resignation becomes effective, First Assistant United States Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison will serve as Acting United States Attorney.
The Central District of California is comprised of the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Approximately 20 million people live in the district, making it by far the largest federal district in the nation.