Prosecuting Major Offenders at the U.S. Attorneys Office

Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward F. Gallagher.

As an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Edward F. Gallagher oversees the investigation and prosecution of alien smugglers, human traffickers, civil rights cases and international organized crime gangs and groups.

Gallagher is the Deputy Chief of the Major Offenders Division for the Southern District of Texas at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He will discuss his career at Real Talk w/CJ on Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. in CJava CafĂ©.

“The Southern District of Texas is a very active office and has one of the highest case loads in the country,” said Gallagher. “We are the sixth largest office in the country, with just under 200 prosecutors, almost half that number spread among our border offices in Laredo, McAllen, Brownsville, and Corpus Christi. We are one of four judicial districts in the state, and we cover 43 counties in Texas. A lot of our cases are drug and immigration related.”

The Major Offenders Division has three areas of responsibility: Human Trafficking and Civil Rights; Organized Crime and Gangs; and Immigration Crimes.

Image illustrating human trafficking, with woman with tape over her mouth.Human trafficking, often called modern day slavery, involves commercial sex or labor servitude induced by force, fraud or coercion. Victims come from within the U.S. or abroad. Traffickers prey on the poor and those with little or no access to social safety nets. Victims are often lured with false promises of good jobs and better lives and then forced to work under brutal and inhumane conditions.

Houston is a hub for human trafficking because of its proximity to the Mexican border, its international airports; its diverse labor force and lack of zoning, Gallagher said.

The Major Offenders Division also handles civil rights complaints, which focus on hate crimes, police brutality or election law. His office was recently involved in assisting the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice with a case involving an African American man who was allegedly assaulted by Skinheads at a Houston bus stop.

Gang member with gun. The unit also oversees prosecutions against organized crime and gangs. With a large international transient population, Gallagher has never seen a traditional Italian Mafia presence in Houston. Organized Crime in Houston is non-traditional and focused on Mexican immigrant gangs, like MS-13 and the Texas Syndicate; Asian American and Vietnamese gangs; West African groups; and Russia and Eastern European activities. These gangs are involved in everything from drugs, Internet and mail fraud, identity theft, and credit card fraud, to name a few.

Finally, Major Offenders also handles Immigration Crime, which includes smuggling, hostage taking, illegal reentry, immigration benefit and visa fraud, and worksite enforcement. It may include violent offenders who illegally reenter the U.S.; smuggling organizations; employment based crimes including companies that hired undocumented or fraudulently documented workers; and visa and document fraud.

Image illustrating Immigration Crime, with passport and gavel.The U.S. Attorney’s Office work with a wide variety of local, state and federal agencies to investigate and prosecute cases. Among the federal agencies are the Federal Bureau of Investigations; Homeland Security; the Internal Revenue Service; U.S. Postal Inspectors; the U.S. Secret Service; Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; The Drug Enforcement Agency and Diplomatic Security Services.

Gallagher began his criminal justice career as a seasonal police officer in Ocean City, Maryland. Upon graduating from law school, Gallagher worked for the FBI as a special agent and legal counsel for five years before joining the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Gallagher received the Director’s Award from Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002 for his successful prosecutions of three international human smuggling groups. In August 2004, Gallagher was named coordinator for the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA), a task force of federal and local law enforcement agencies working with non-governmental organizations to combat human trafficking. In December 2009, Gallagher received the Director’s Award from Attorney General Eric Holder for coordinating the HTRA in its training and prosecution efforts.

Gallagher has written papers and lectured to both local and federal prosecutors, investigators and private attorneys on such subjects as government procurement fraud, enterprise investigations using the RICO statute, use of undercover operations and electronic surveillance, human trafficking, labor prosecutions, and immigration attorney visa/labor certification fraud. He is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Law Center where he teaches national security law.

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