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A Rise in Federal Cases Prompts U.S. Attorney’s Office to Open a Staffed Branch in Tri-Cities

RICHLAND, Wa. – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced Friday that a fully-staffed branch of the United States Attorney’s Office will be opening in Richland, Washington. At a press event, U.S. Attorney Waldref stated, “The number of cases prosecuted by the Richland Division of my office has risen significantly over the last two decades. As the number of cases continued to grow, it became clear that we need dedicated Assistant United States Attorneys, who live and work in the Tri-Cities area, to support our federal, state, and local partners and ensure that criminal defendants who commit federal crimes are prosecuted to the fullest extent.” 

After learning that the U.S. Attorney’s Office would be opening a staffed Richland Office, Senior United States District Court Judge Edward F. Shea stated, “I am pleased to join in celebrating the expansion of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Richland. This expansion will strengthen the ongoing Federal-Local law enforcement efforts in Southeastern Washington for the benefit of all who live here.”

The Richland Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is in the Richland Courthouse and Federal Building, which is located at 825 Jadwin Avenue in Richland, Washington.  Since 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted an average of approximately 70 cases each year arising in the Richland Division. While the U.S. Attorney’s Office has continued to prosecute a large volume of cases in Richland, the federal prosecutors handling these cases have been traveling from Spokane and Yakima to appear for hearings in Richland’s federal courthouse. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington represents the United States in federal litigation, both criminal and civil, in the twenty Washington counties east of the crest of the Cascade Mountains. The Eastern District is home to approximately 1.5 million people, of which approximately 400,000 live in the Tri-Cities metropolitan area. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for enforcing federal criminal, civil, administrative, and tax laws. The Office works closely with federal, state, and local partners with one primary purpose:  To ensure that justice is done in each individual case. The Richland Office, when it is fully staffed, is expected to have two fulltime Assistant United States Attorneys and one legal assistant.

“Many of the most significant federal cases and crimes we prosecute involve conduct in the Tri-Cities area,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref.  She continued, “When I became the United States Attorney a little over a year ago, one of my top priorities was to build upon the work that the Department of Justice has been doing in the Tri-Cities. Today’s announcement is a realization of our goal to ensure the United States Attorney’s Office has a permanent and staffed presence serving Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla Counties. We are fortunate to already have Special Assistant United States Attorney Laurel J. Holland, who has prosecuted state and federal cases in the Tri-Cities area since 2009.  In the coming months, we anticipate that two additional AUSAs will be joining SAUSA Holland in our Richland Office to pursue justice on behalf of the Tri-Cities area and throughout all of Eastern Washington.”

The following are some of the significant recent federal cases prosecuted out of the Tri-Cities area:

  • Ayoola Taiwo Adeoti, 4:22-CR-06005-SAB, indictment for business email compromise, money laundering, and bank fraud conspiracy involving fraud of approximately three-quarters of a million dollars from the Benton County government;
  • HPM Corporation; 4:22-MJ-07038-JPH, global criminal and civil fraud settlement in March 2022 recovering $3 million from Hanford Site prime contractor for fraudulent COVID-19 relief claims under the Paycheck Protection Program;
  • Ali Abed Yaser, et al., 4:21-CR-6042-SMJ, twenty-three people indicted in January 2022, for an alleged staged automobile accident scheme; 
  • Cody Easterday, 4:21-cr-06012-SAB, sentenced to 11 years and $244 million in restitution in October 2022 for a massive fraud scheme involving fictitious cattle;  
  • U.S. ex rel. Avila v. Sunrhys, LLC, 4:21-cv-05013-TOR, civil prosecution involving civil rights violations and housing fraud, resulting in July 2022 recovery of significant civil penalties and other remedial measures for a landlord in Walla Walla that was overcharging tenants and fraudulently obtaining federal subsidies intended to assist homeless veterans;  
  • U.S. ex rel. Yam v. Providence Health and Services; 4:20-CV-05004-SMJ, civil fraud prosecution and recovery in April 2022 of over $22.7 million for fraudulent billing of medically-unnecessary neurosurgery procedures to Medicare and Medicaid at Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center in Walla Walla;  
  • Trent Drexel Howard, 4:19-CR-06036-SMJ, sentenced to 23 years in federal prison in January 2022 for child pornography offenses after being extradited from Kazakhstan;
  • Julio Leal Parra et. al., 4:19-CR-06061-SAB, sentenced to 16 years for a large drug-trafficking conspiracy involving ties to the Sinaloa cartel – Parra was one of five charged defendants in the case;
  • Dr. Janet Sue Arnold, 4:18-CR-6044-EFS-1, sentenced to four years in federal prison in April 2022, for conspiring to distribute medically unnecessary fentanyl patches, opioid pills and other controlled substances out of her medical practice;
  • Dale Gordon Black, 4:18-CR-6029-EFS, sentenced to 30 years in prison in July 2019, for producing child pornography;
  • Hector Medina, 4:18-cr-06024-SMJ, sentenced to 15 years for in an overdose death and drug-trafficking conspiracy; 
  • Reynaldo Perez Munoz, 4:18-CR-6008-EFS, sentenced to 26 years in transnational conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and to launder money gained from illegal drug distribution; 
  • Josue Medina-Perez and Francisco Delgado, 19-CR-06018-EFS, ten-defendant transnational drug conspiracy, which was one of the first fentanyl conspiracies involving prosecution of an Arizona-based source of supply;
  • Sami Anwar, 4:18-cr-5064-EFS, sentenced to more than 28 years in October, 2020, after a three-week trial for falsifying human clinical research data;
  • Rosalio Emmanuel Sanchez, 4:17-CR-06014-WFN-6, sentenced to 22 years in prison in May 2019, for distributing illegal narcotics in the Tri-Cities area after a five-day jury trial in Richland;
  • Bechtel Corporation et al., 4:17-CV-5074-SMJ, civil fraud prosecution and recovery in September 2020 of $57.75 million from Hanford Site prime contractor for fraudulent overbilling on radioactive waste treatment plant project;
  • Miles Barton Nichols, 4:16-CR-6033-EFS-1, sentenced to life in prison in 2018 after being convicted in two separate jury trial of drug trafficking and firearms offenses.
  • U.S. ex rel. Savage v. CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company; U.S. ex rel. Savage v. Washington Closure Hanford, et al; 4:14-CV-5002-SMJ and 4:10-CV-5051-SMJ; recoveries of approximately $10 million between 2017 and 2021 from Hanford Site contractors for use of fraudulent small business front companies on Hanford Site subcontracts. 
  • Bechtel National Inc., 13-CV-5013-EFS, civil fraud prosecution and $125 million recovery in November 2016 from Hanford Site contractor for use of substandard materials, quality assurance violations, and improper use of federal funds for lobbying activity. 
  • CH2M Hill Hanford Group, 09-CV-5038-EFS, civil and criminal prosecutions of time charging fraud at the Hanford Site, resulting in twelve criminal convictions and recovery of more than $18.5 million in damages and penalties between 2012 and 2015.   

Currently, the Tri-Cities area is served by several federal judges:  U.S. Circuit Judge for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Salvador Mendoza, Jr.; Senior U.S. District Court Judge Edward F. Shea, U.S. District Court Judge Mary K. Dimke, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Alexander C. Ekstrom. Relatedly, many federal law enforcement agencies – to include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Customs and Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration; FBI; Homeland Security Investigations; Department of Energy Office of Inspector General; and the U.S. Marshal’s Service to name a few – have staffed offices, agents, and task force officers in the Tri-Cities area. 

Regarding the federal presence in the area, U.S. Attorney Waldref added, “We will continue to support our federal, state, and local partners who have a long-established presence in Benton, Franklin, and Walla Walla Counties. We have been working closely with our law enforcement partners in Southeast Washington for years, and are thrilled to build even stronger relationships to make our growing communities in this region safer and stronger.” 

United States Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer for the Eastern District of Washington. She leads an office of 29 Assistant United States Attorneys:  23 in Spokane and 6 in Yakima.  In the near future, that number is anticipated to grow by at least 2 in the new staffed Richland Office.

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