U.S. Attorney Ihlenfeld Announces Resignation
WHEELING – United States Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld, II, announced today that he will resign his position on Dec. 31 after having served the Northern District of West Virginia for more than six years.
“Serving as United States Attorney has been the most rewarding and exciting experience of my professional career,” said Ihlenfeld in a press release issued Monday. “I feel blessed to have been a part of a talented team of crime fighters and community problem solvers, and I’m proud of all that we’ve accomplished.”
Earlier this month, Ihlenfeld was listed as a member of Governor Jim Justice’ transition team.
Ihlenfeld, along with Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught, laid the groundwork for an extensive investigation into the Budget Finance collapse, which resulted in charges being filed.
On a unrelated note, Ihlenfeld is a gifted long distance runner who has had success in the Ogden half marathon, one of the toughest courses in the nation.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, during Ihlenfeld’s tenure, prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office have successfully litigated many types of cases but none more than drug crimes. Federal prosecutions in the Northern District since 2010 have disrupted or dismantled drug trafficking organizations from places such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit that were bringing controlled substances into West Virginia. Doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals involved in the improper prescribing or dispensing of painkillers have been charged and convicted, and lengthy prison sentences have been obtained against heroin dealers whose actions caused the death of another.
In order to escalate the response to West Virginia’s drug epidemic, Ihlenfeld secured federal funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to provide drug task forces with additional financial and intelligence resources. His office formed a partnership with the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office to prosecute drug crimes, a first-of-its-kind arrangement in the state that has produced numerous convictions. Ihlenfeld represented the Department of Justice in the federal government’s effort to reduce the availability of illicit drugs in the country, served on the U.S. Attorney General’s Controlled Substance/Asset Forfeiture subcommittee, and as the Vice-Chairman of the Appalachia HIDTA Executive Board.
In addition to taking aggressive enforcement actions, Ihlenfeld pursued innovative approaches to address the drug crisis, including the creation of the United States Attorney’s Addiction Action Plan. He served as a member of the advisory board for the “Martinsburg Initiative”, a new project that utilizes a trauma-informed approach to help prevent drug use, and his office helped to bring drug prevention programming to tens of thousands of young people.
Ihlenfeld placed special emphasis on the investigation and prosecution of white collar crimes during his time in office. He formed a public corruption unit within the U.S. Attorney’s Office and established a hotline for citizens to report this type of crime. The unit has been productive, having recently uncovered improper political activity, bid-rigging, and pay-to-play schemes within the West Virginia Division of Highways. These investigations led to convictions of former DOH employees and to sweeping changes to policies within the state Department of Transportation.
A financial crimes investigative initiative and a healthcare fraud working group were also formed in recent years and now each proactively investigate those categories of cases. This proactive approach has led to an increase in the prosecution of white collar crimes within the Northern District, including a case against HSBC – one of the world’s largest banks – for its failure to identify money laundering transactions related to Mexican drug trafficking as well as its hiding of transfers made for clients in foreign countries subject to U.S. sanctions. As a result of the investigation, HSBC paid $1.9 billion in fines and penalties and was ordered to make substantial reforms to its operating procedures.
Matters involving the embezzlement of large sums of money from Bethany College, Center Valley Federal Credit Union, and Mountaineer Racetrack were among other notable white collar matters that were successfully prosecuted in recent years, along with cases against bank executives and government officials for financial fraud.
Civil rights investigations were front and center over the past six years, including cases brought against the former Jefferson County Sheriff and a former Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy for use of excessive force, both of which resulted in convictions.
An increased focus was placed upon federal domestic violence cases by Ihlenfeld, which led to numerous convictions for interstate domestic violence, stalking, and illegal gun possession by domestic violence offenders.
More recently, cyber investigations have been prioritized at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. A cyber unit has been created in order to respond to what will be a serious threat going forward.
Many civil cases have been resolved favorably since 2010, including large settlements with healthcare providers and educational institutions that committed fraud against the United States. Nearly $50 million has been recovered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office financial litigation unit over the past six years on behalf of victims. Investigations against pharmaceutical manufacturers that filled suspicious orders for prescription painkillers have also been successfully undertaken by the office.
Ten new Assistant U.S. Attorneys have been hired during Ihlenfeld’s tenure, a group that now makes up nearly half of the prosecutors on staff.
Ihlenfeld, who was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 5, 2010, plans to return to the private practice of law in 2017.