Sally Quillian Yates

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For U.S. Attorney, Public Corruption Holds ‘Special Place’ in Her Heart

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Sally Yates (DOJ)

Although Sally Quillian Yates has handled cases on numerous topics, public corruption are still her first love, the new U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia told The Gainsville Times in a profile published Sunday.

“I’m a firm believer that how we go about doing our job here and how we represent the people in an honorable way is much more important than what the ultimate resolution of the case is,” Yates said, adding, that public corruption cases hold a “special place in my heart.”

Yates has served in the Atlanta-based Northern District office since 1989. She was confirmed as the new U.S. Attorney in March. During her tenure with the office she has handled the corruption trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and the case against Olympics bomber Eric Rudolph.

“I think it oftentimes falls to the U.S. Attorney’s office and the feds to be the ones looking out for cases on the corruption front, and to do it in a vigorous way that inspires confidence” she said.

Yates believes her first trial may have been her best. The case, which took place in the late 1980s, involved a disputed title to six acres of land between the county’s first landowning black family and a developer.  Yates ultimately won the case.

“That is the most meaningful case I could ever have,” she told the newspaper. “It gave me a taste for the value of being on the right side of truth and justice, of believing in your cause. Once you’ve tasted that, it’s hard to go back to representing any old client.”

Soon after that case, Yates joined the U.S. Attorney’s office she now heads. During her time in the office, she has served as acting U.S. Attorney, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, chief of the fraud and public corruption section and First Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“I’ve been very fortunate here to have been able to handle a wide variety of cases,” Yates told the newspaper, adding that she stayed in the office “longer than I ever anticipated … because of the satisfaction that comes from being on the side of justice.”

Among the challenges her office faces are drug trafficking cases, which have become a priority since Atlanta became a hub for the Mexican drug cartels, according to Yates. Gangs are also a priority.

Yates also has made sex trafficking, child exploitation, weapons cases and other violent crimes high priorities. But because of the size of the office — 89 prosecutors representing an area with about 6.5 million people — prosecutors need to be selective about cases, she said.

“We really have to pick and choose the cases we’re prosecuting to try to have the greatest impact on the district, both in terms of getting offenders off the streets and sending a deterrence message to stem the tide,” Yates aid.

Kent Alexander, who served as the district’s U.S. Attorney in the 1990s and worked with Yates for several years, said she is up to the task.

“She is absolutely a top-notch prosecutor and I don’t think President Obama could have made a better decision,” he told the newspaper, adding, “She’s been in the courtroom, she’s managed, and she’s led, and most importantly, she has excellent judgment. Bottom line, she’s a star.”

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Alexandre Herrera, for outstanding work in the U.S. v. Charlie Shivers tax fraud case.

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U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Alexandre Herrera earns a U.S. Attorney’s Award for his work in the U.S. v. Charlie Shivers tax fraud case.

Alex began his first investigative assignment as a Special Agent in 2011, when he joined the counterfeit squad, Atlanta Field Office.

Less than a year later, Alex got volunteered when AUSA Gale McKenzie called his office and asked for an agent to be assigned to work with her on a new grand jury investigation.  A cooperating defendant had come forward with U.S. treasury check for over $538,000, and information about fraudulent fuel tax credits and related money laundering.  At a time in his career when most agents are only beginning to learn their craft, Alex was tasked with an extremely productive CI, one whose track record with far more experienced agents showed he was a challenge to supervise.

Despite a lack of formal training in tax fraud, Alex quickly mastered all the details of the complex scheme, and engineered a series of consensually recorded phone calls between the CI and two targets which efficiently captured all the elements needed to prove the case.  Late on a Friday, Alex learned that the primary target of the investigation, Charlie Shivers, was imminently preparing to destroy the evidence of his scheme and leave the country permanently.  Alex brought the CI to the U.S. Attorney’s Office that night, where he was debriefed by Alex with Gale and Alana Black to develop probable cause for a search warrant of Shivers’ home.  Alex worked through the night with Gale and Alana, producing an affidavit establishing probable cause for a search of Shivers’ home and for his arrest, both of which were to be presented to Magistrate Judge Linda Walker just a couple of hours later that Saturday morning, at 5:30 am at her home.  Despite living on the far side of the metro area from Judge Walker, Alex insisted on going home to shower and put on a suit before travelling to her home to present the warrant.  On his way out of the building, he took the time to escort Alana to her car, parked in an insecure surface lot, where his presence dissuaded an apparent would-be mugger who had been lying in wait there.

Very shortly after obtaining the warrants from Judge Walker, Alex and a team of other agents searched Shivers’ home and arrested Shivers.  They were just in time.  Shivers was literally preparing stacks of documentary evidence of his fraudulent tax scheme for shredding at when agents arrived, and had a one-way plane ticket to Australia in hand.

Despite the sleep deprivation, Alex’s professionalism and courtesy to all during the search and arrest, including Shivers, contributed to the defendant’s immediate decision to cooperate and ultimately negotiate a guilty plea.  In the following weeks, Alex worked intensively with bank investigators to track over $30 million in fraudulent claims and proceeds from the scheme, much of which had been laundered through as many as 6 bank accounts.  Alex accomplished all of this while on an extremely heavy travel schedule for protective details for the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign, and while investigating two other major cases which have since resulted in federal charges.  This award recognizes Alex for his dogged perseverance, insightful investigation, and extremely hard work.

On 05/12/12, Charlie Shivers was arrested, via Criminal Complaint, by agents of the ATL Field Office for 18 USC 641 (Theft of Public Money) and 1341 (Mail Fraud).  On 5/8/13, Shivers was sentenced in the Northern District of GA by Judge Thrash to serve eighty-four (84) months incarceration, to pay restitution of $5,630,681.66 to the IRS, and to three (3) years of supervised release.  The total relevant criminal activity of Shivers surpassed $30 million in tax return fraud over a two year