U.S. Attorney Lelling announces departure

Special to the Times

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling announced last week that, effective Feb. 28, he will step down as United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. 

Lelling tendered his resignation to the President of the United States earlier this week.

The announcement marks the end of Lelling’s 20-year career in the Department of Justice, starting in 2001 as a senior official in the Civil Rights Division, followed by positions as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Virginia and, since 2005, for the District of Massachusetts.  In September 2017, with the support of Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, President Donald J. Trump nominated Lelling for the position of United States Attorney. In December 2017, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm him.

“It has been an honor to lead this office,” said Lelling. “Over the last 15 years, I have had the privilege of working not only with the best federal prosecutors in the country, but with the federal, state and local law enforcement officers who put themselves at risk to keep Massachusetts safe.  My goal as U.S. Attorney has been to do this job without fear or outside influence, and to make clear that everyone – regardless of wealth, status, or position of authority – will be treated the same under the law.  Massachusetts deserves nothing less.”

Under Lelling’s leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office brought successful, high impact cases in a number of areas. 

•The office launched the most significant federal enforcement action in U.S. history targeting corruption in college admissions, an effort that sparked a national conversation on fairness and equality in the admissions process. Fifty-six people were charged in the college admissions case, 42 of whom have been convicted to date.

•In the first federal racketeering case targeting senior corporate executives for their role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic, in 2019, seven senior executives of Insys Therapeutics, Inc., including its CEO, John Kapoor, were convicted at trial.

•Lelling spearheaded a nationally recognized anti-opioid media campaign focused on preventing first time use, especially among teens. The campaign used social media and nontraditional platforms with targeted messaging developed using focus groups of teens and others. It was first of its kind in the country and reached millions of people in the Commonwealth and beyond. 

•In a push to tackle public corruption in the Commonwealth, since late 2017, under Lelling’s leadership the office has charged: 11 current and former members of the Massachusetts State Police and 10 current and former members of the Boston Police Department for fraudulent overtime practices and other corruption; State Representative David Nangle for alleged fraud; and a state district court judge for alleged obstruction of justice.

•Continuing the office’s longstanding role as a leader in national healthcare enforcement, since late 2017 the office’s civil prosecutors have recovered nearly $1 billion from major pharmaceutical companies for violations of civil anti-kickback laws.

•Leading a coordinated group of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office prioritized rooting out drug trafficking and violent offenders in Lawrence, Mass., a city in which crime has dropped 46 percentÊin the last two years.

•Since late 2017, Lelling’s gang and organized crime prosecutors have convicted dozens of members of the violent transnational gang MS-13, and indicted more than 70 members of the Latin Kings gang, substantially dismantling both gangs in Massachusetts.

Under Lelling’s leadership, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was also a national leader in federal civil rights enforcement:

•The Office’s “pattern and practice” investigation of the Springfield Police Department was the only such investigation opened in the country under the Trump administration. 

•During Lelling’s tenure, the Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office was the only one to use the Americans with Disabilities Act to require nursing facilities and county jails to provide medically assisted treatment to recovering addicts. 

•Lelling’s office continues to pursue a federal civil rights investigation of allegations of mismanagement and neglect at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the pandemic, a situation that resulted in the deaths of over 75 elderly veterans.

•Lelling’s office continues to negotiate with the Massachusetts Department of Correction to improve treatment of inmates requiring mental health treatment and reduce the use of restrictive housing.

Lelling added, “This is a unique and powerful job – there is no flesh-and-blood client, but only an unshakable obligation to be fair and to work in the public interest.  I know that my colleagues, in the U.S. Attorney’s Office and in the law enforcement agencies we work with, share my belief that this is a calling.  I look forward to new challenges in the years ahead, but I will miss the sense of mission that comes with working for the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Following Lelling’s departure, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell will assume the role of Acting U.S. Attorney.

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