LOS ANGELES – U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna announced Monday that he will resign his position as the chief federal prosecutor for the Los Angeles-based Central District of California, the largest federal district in the nation.
Hanna was appointed interim U.S. attorney in January 2018 by then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. President Donald Trump later nominated Hanna to be U.S. attorney in February 2018, and he was confirmed by the Senate on April 26, 2018.
While serving as the top federal law enforcement officer in the district for the past three years, Hanna oversaw a string of public corruption cases in which 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.
During Hanna’s tenure, 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 form an opioid overdose response team, which targets narcotics traffickers who sell drugs that result in fatal overdoses. The program has resulted in nearly a 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 murders. Hanna oversaw about 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, and will conclude his service as U.S. attorney on Friday, Jan. 8. Once his resignation becomes effective, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison will serve as acting U.S. attorney.
“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.”
Hanna said “the work we have done together has resonated throughout our district, across the nation and around the world. 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,” he said.
Other cases Hanna oversaw include the largest asset forfeiture in U.S. history, in which 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 awaiting trial on charges of killing his ex-girlfriend by planting a bomb that destroyed an Aliso Viejo day spa. The office also won a guilty verdict 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 Hanna’s leadership the office helped shut down one of the world’s largest dark web marketplaces, won a conviction against 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.
While serving as an assistant U.S. 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, he served as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego, where he focused on investigating and prosecuting international drug cartels.
The Central District of California is comprised of the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. About 20 million people live in the district, making it by far the largest federal district in the nation.