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Prosecution of Fraud and Official Corruption

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On the basis of his experience with the special prosecution of fraud and official corruption cases in the Chicago U.S. District Attorney's Office, the speaker urges young assistant attorneys to get involved in this rewarding and challenging prosecutorial specialty.
The Chicago program operates on the major case concept that requires attorney full-time involvement in the development of a case and recognizes the responsibility of Federal courts to commit their resources and expertise to a problem area in which the need is pressing and local and State capabilities limited. The Chicago fraud and corruption division is coequal with the crime division in importance, and its staff specializes in official corruption, financial crimes, and public protection cases. Problem areas such as zoning and corporate kickbacks may not come to light without 'making' a case by persistently pursuing information in preparation for a grand jury investigation. Guidelines for involvement include picking an area of personal interest, creating an overall plan early, working closely with agents on a basis of partnership, and pursuing leads regardless of who may become implicated. This work requires steadfast resistance against intimidating pressures by highly placed power interests offering compromise. A low-key attitude and discretion are vital. Intense criticism is inevitable, and the best response is the equitable treatment of all involved parties. The investigation must be thorough in preparation for the grand jury hearing, at which a good exposure to the defendant's case can be obtained and weaknesses identified in the prosecution's material. The indictment also requires meticulous attention with reviews and redrafting. The underlying rationale for this work is the knowledge that the public will not tolerate official corruption. Two useful legal tools for prosecuting corrupt activity are the concept of extortion under color of official right (the common law concept of bribery) and mail fraud, both of which enable the prosecution of interstate illicit activities. These have been used successfully in Chicago, where attorneys will gladly share their experience and advise other departments of their strategies. Questions concern granting immunity to accomplices to be used as witnesses.


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