Friday, September 22, 2017

Department of Justice Awards Nearly $59 Million to Combat Opioid Epidemic, Fund Drug Courts

The Department of Justice today announced $58.8 million to strengthen drug court programs and address the opioid epidemic nationwide.

In 2016, nearly 60,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses, an increase from the 52,000 overdose deaths the year before. The majority of these deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl and its analogues. The opioid epidemic, a public health crisis, is also a growing public safety crisis.

“Today, we are facing the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “These trends are shocking and the numbers tell us a lot– but they aren’t just numbers.  They represent moms and dads, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends. And make no mistake combatting this poison is a top priority for President Trump and his administration, and you can be sure that we are taking action to address it.  Today, we are announcing that we will be awarding millions in federal grants to help law enforcement and public health agencies address prescription drug and opioid abuse.  This is an urgent problem and we are making it a top priority.”

About $24 million in federal grants will be awarded to 50 cities, counties and public health departments to provide financial and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal governments to create comprehensive diversion and alternatives to incarceration programs for those impacted by the opioid epidemic. These funds, awarded under the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Program, also included funds from the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This program helps regulatory, law enforcement, and public health agencies address prescription drug and opioid misuse; reduce crime; and save lives.

An additional $3.1 million will be awarded by the National Institute of Justice for research and evaluation on drugs and crime. The research priorities are heroin and other opioids and synthetic drugs.

 The department is also awarding more than $22.2 million to 53 jurisdictions to support the implementation and enhancement of adult drug courts and Veterans Treatment Courts, which serve as “one-stop-shops” to link veterans with services, benefits and program providers, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Service Organizations and volunteer veteran mentors.

Specific sites and funds awarded can be found online at:

The department is also awarding more than $9.5 million under several Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention grant programs, including the Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Grant Program and the Family Drug Court Statewide System Reform Implementation Program. These programs helps jurisdictions build effective family drug treatment courts and ensure current juvenile drug treatment courts follow established guidelines.

Specific sites and funds awarded can be found online at:

Finally, read more about the importance of these programs in a new blog by OJP Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson online at 

The Office of Justice Programs, headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Alan R. Hanson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six bureaus and offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking (SMART). More information about OJP and its components can be found at

Armed Robber Sentenced to 120 Months in Federal Prison for Illegal Gun Possession

Memphis, TN – A Memphis man has been sentenced for illegal gun possession related to an armed robbery that he committed at a gas station convenience store. Lawrence J. Laurenzi, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, announced the sentence today.

According to information presented in court, on the evening of October 3, 2016, Gregory Craft, 35, brandished a firearm and demanded money from a customer of the Valero convenience store located at 4027 Jackson Avenue. After taking the victim’s money, the defendant left the store and fired the weapon into the air. Craft had previously been convicted of several state charges, including felony assault with a deadly weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon, aggravated assault and domestic assault.

An indictment returned on January 26, 2017, by a federal grand jury charged Craft with being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Following a three-day trial, a jury unanimously returned a guilty verdict on June 7, 2017. In imposing the 120-month sentence today, U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays also ordered Craft to serve a 3-year term of supervised release following his release from prison.

The case was investigated by the Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force, and officers and agents of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, Memphis Police Department, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lauren J. Delery and Jerry R. Kitchen prosecuted this case on the government’s behalf.

ATF Agents Honored with Hero Awards

ESCONDIDO, Calif. – North San Diego Business Chamber recognized Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agents Geoffrey Rice and Matt Beals today at its Hero Awards ceremony. The Hero Awards honor the dedicated officers, first responders and public safety leaders who have gone above and beyond in their duties.

Top law enforcement leaders to include San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore, San Diego Fire Chief Brian Fennessy, District Attorney Summer Stephan and Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter were in attendance to recognize the individuals who make our community safer.

Rice was recognized for his investigative work targeting gang members in Escondido.  Rice’s work led to the arrest of two defendants for murder - one of which he assisted in locating in Mexico and was extradited to the United States. Of the two defendants, one pleaded guilty to murder and one pleaded guilty to narcotics and firearms charges.

Beals was recognized for his work on the murder-by-arson conviction of Andrew Hollis, 65. Hollis set the February 2015 fire that destroyed his home and killed his 74-year-old wife, Gertrudes Hollis.

“These are top-of-the-line agents committed to serving the public,” said ATF Los Angeles Special Agent in Charge Eric Harden. “They are devoted to the job and are highly regarded by their colleagues. They deserve to be publicly celebrated. It is wonderful they are being honored for their work and dedication to these outstanding cases, which both resulted in significant prison sentences.”

Rice’s Hero Award

Beginning in 2016, Rice, along with Escondido Police Department, began targeting violent Escondido Diablos and the West Side street gang members focusing on the shooters.

Alberto Curiel, a documented Diablo gang member, and Javier Seda, an associate, were determined to be the suspects in the murder of Fabian Arellano, a documented West Side gang member. Rice and detectives built a cases against the gang members who used firearms for murder and intimidation while furthering their drug trafficking activities. Curiel was arrested in March 2016.  During the investigation, Rice identified Seda as the         

main suspect in the Arellano murder. Seda fled to Mexico shortly after Arellano’s murder. Rice and investigators tracked Seda to a remote town in the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico. In July 2016, ATF agents in Mexico and Mexican law enforcement counterparts located and arrested Seda. He was later extradited to the United States.

On Feb. 27, 2017, Seda pleaded guilty in state court to the Arellano murder and was sentenced to 30 years to life. The next day, Curiel pleaded guilty in state court and was sentenced to eight years for dealing narcotics while armed.

 Beals’ Hero Award

On. Feb. 22, 2015, a fire ravaged the Hollis’ residence in Oceanside. Gertrudes Hollis was found fully clothed and dead in the bathtub with the shower water running. It was determined she died of smoke inhalation and extensive thermal burn injuries.

Andrew Hollis was air transported to the hospital for severe burns. He told investigators he awoke to the smell of fire and received his burns while trying to rescue his trapped wife

Beals, an ATF certified fire investigator, led a team with the Oceanside Fire Department (OFD) and the Oceanside Police Department (OPD) that processed the fire scene. The team conducted a detailed technical examination to include burn patterns on the residence, and the charred remains of the deceased and Andrew Hollis.

Fire debris, clothing and additional evidence samples were submitted to the ATF Forensic Science Laboratory and the ATF Fire Research Laboratory. Tests identified the presence of an ignitable liquid on Andrew Hollis’ jacket - worn the night of the fire. Beals and investigators determined the fire was a result of arson and classified it as incendiary.

Beals conducted the first of its kind, peer-reviewed, published testing illustrating the length of time an ignitable liquid would remain on unburned clothing. Testing revealed the ignitable liquid, found on Andrew Hollis’ jacket, would remain identifiable by no more than 48 hours. This was key, and the testing was admissible. The testing proved the ignitable liquid was not from a spill months prior to the fire. Andrew Hollis’ defense claimed the liquid was leftover from the use of a charcoal grill months before the tragic death of Gertrudes Hollis. 

Almost two years from the date of the anniversary of the fire, Andrew Hollis had a two-week trial. During the trial Beals’ expert testimony was pivotal. On Feb. 28, 2017, a jury convicted Andrew Hollis of murder-by-arson and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.