U.S. Attorney Cox Announces Departure from Eastern District of Texas Post

Published 3:43 pm Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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BEAUMONT, Texas – United States Attorney Stephen J. Cox announced that he will step down from his post as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) effective 11:59 p.m. today, January 19.

“The opportunity to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas has been a distinct honor and privilege for which I will be forever grateful,” said Cox. “The opportunity to serve the people of the Great State of Texas, and to work alongside the fine men and women of our office, has been nothing short of humbling.”

During Cox’s tenure at EDTX, the District focused increased attention on complex fraud and white-collar enforcement, with a particular emphasis on healthcare, financial, and antitrust crimes; adopted new corporate enforcement policies that are important for transparency, good government, and fairness; launched a new transnational elder fraud initiative designed to target international crime rings targeting senior citizens; formed new partnerships and strike forces with law enforcement partners to leverage expertise and increase referrals; initiated a new violent crime enforcement blitz designed to thwart a rise in gun crimes in Port Arthur and the Golden Triangle; formed new public-private partnerships to facilitate increased information sharing; and developed a new leadership structure to implement specialized fields of practice and increase collaboration and co-counsel opportunities across the District.

Cox began his service at the Department of Justice in early 2017, when he served as Deputy Associate Attorney General in the Office of the Associate Attorney General (OASG), overseeing five large litigating components, three grant-making components, and a number of other offices relating to civil justice.  Cox spearheaded numerous policy reforms relating to corporate enforcement and regulatory reform, while overseeing several Department matters concerning financial fraud and healthcare fraud.  He also served as vice chair of the Deputy Attorney General’s working group on corporate enforcement and accountability, and as executive director of the Department’s regulatory reform task force.

In May 2020, after more than three years in OASG including as Chief of Staff, former Attorney General William Barr appointed Cox as U.S. Attorney for EDTX effective June 1st, and on September 28th was appointed by the Court as U.S. Attorney, having received the unanimous approval of the active and senior District Judges.

Cox focused a significant amount of attention developing new ways to leverage the talented personnel in the Office.  Since his arrival, EDTX made some sizeable changes to the structure of the office, moving personnel between divisions, adding new hires, and creating new roles to better accomplish our mission. In the Criminal Division, for example, Cox identified specialized fields of practice and named Deputy Chiefs to oversee these new sections across the District. The new structure now leverages the expertise of these Deputy Chiefs in some of our most specialized cases and creates a horizontal structure that allows for unprecedented collaboration amongst all our offices. 

Under Cox’s leadership, EDTX also increased its capacity and strengths in white collar enforcement through the new personnel structure, more targeted recruiting and staffing, new and improved partnerships with law enforcement, and new corporate enforcement policies.  For example, EDTX recruited two new White Collar AUSAs, partnered with the Criminal Division to embed three Healthcare Strike Force prosecutors within EDTX, and recruited new SAUSAs with white-collar experience.  EDTX signed an MOU with the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery so that we could heighten the focus on COVID-related fraud; joined the Gulf Coast Strike Force to increase healthcare fraud capacity; and joined the Procurement Collusion Strike Force to bolster efforts to protect competition in the procurement marketplace.

Cox launched a new transnational elder fraud initiative and placed a senior white collar prosecutor from the leadership team in charge.  The initiative’s purpose is to reimagine the fight against elder fraud and use the same tactics and tools that EDTX uses to root out transnational drug cartels to decimate the criminal transnational syndicates preying on our seniors.  EDTX established three separate Financial Investigation Groups to partner with law enforcement in conducting an expansive review of Suspicious Activity Reports, which have identified financial transactions that might be related to elder fraud.  EDTX established an open, working dialogue with some of the world’s biggest banks to share information and foster better referrals.  EDTX participated in the Department of Justice’s Money Mule Initiative with great results.  Money mules are the lifeblood of these international fraud rings, and EDTX identified and disrupted at least 13 money mules through interviews, warning letters, and criminal charges.  EDTX is also working with Texas retailers and grocers on what to look for when they suspect a large gift card purchase is being used to facilitate money laundering.  Finally, EDTX grew its partnerships with the Consumer Protection Branch, the Criminal Division, and the Federal Trade Commission, yielding increased elder fraud referrals.

Borrowing a page from his work at Main Justice, Cox recently announced that EDTX has formally adopted the most recent corporate enforcement policies that the Department has introduced in the past four years, removing any doubt as to whether they applied in EDTX.  The policies address a wide spectrum of white-collar enforcement issues relating to corporate resolutions, prosecutorial discretion, third-party payments, voluntary disclosure, cooperation, guidance documents, piling-on credit, agency coordination, compliance programs and corporate monitors, and ability to pay. Cox spearheaded several of these policies while at OASG and assisted with others in his capacity as vice-chair of the Deputy Attorney General’s working group on corporate enforcement and accountability.

Cox supervised investigations into and secured charges or convictions in numerous significant cases, including, the bomber of a Beaumont church; Jefferson County residents allegedly engaged in the unlawful nationwide distribution of butanediol, commonly referred to as a “date rape drug;” a church pastor charged with production of child pornography; the seizure of phony tech support websites used to defraud Amazon customers; a Collin County man facing COVID-relief fraud charges related to the Paycheck Protection Program; Liberty County residents alleged to have operated a CARES Act fraud scheme involving Economic Injury Disaster Loans; individuals allegedly engaged in a multi-million dollar transnational money laundering operation involving elder fraud; the sentencing of an Al-Qaeda trained jihadist to 300 months for a plot to recruit terrorists to kill Americans on behalf of ISIS; Aryan Circle gang members and associates indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy, which includes acts involving murder, and violent crimes in aid of racketeering, including assault resulting in serious bodily injury and kidnapping; a Collin County man convicted for cyber fraud and money laundering that victimized senior citizens, school districts, and charities; the conviction of a Jefferson County physician for health care fraud and kickback violations related to compounded scar creams; and the sentencing of a Dark Web cannibal to 40 years for child exploitation violations.

Under Cox’s leadership, the civil litigation practice in EDTX has achieved significant and numerous successes in all aspects of civil practice, including its efforts to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), False Claims Act (FCA), civil forfeiture, and well as in its defensive practice, defending federal employees and agencies sued in federal court. The United States sought and obtained a temporary restraining order (TRO) under the CSA barring defendants Jake’s Fireworks and Right Price Chemicals from continuing business operations on the grounds that Jake’s Fireworks was a drug-involved premises.  EDTX also played a primary role in negotiating a $48 million settlement in United States ex rel. Magee v. Texas Heart Hospital of the Southwest et al, 4:16-cv-00717 (E.D. Tex.) to resolve claims that Texas Heart Hospital of the Southwest and its wholly owned subsidiary violated the Physician Self-Referral Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute.  EDTX also continued its commitment to using the FCA to hold individuals, not just corporations, accountable for fraud on the United States, settling with Bibi Tasleyma Sattar, D.O. and her medical practice for $210,000 for violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute, as well as a similar $368,325.00 settlement with Joseph Rizzo, M.D. and a $281,524.07 settlement with Jason Bourque, also for Anti-Kickback violations.  EDTX also commenced civil forfeiture proceedings against Fahad Shah, who submitted fraudulent applications for over $3 million in forgivable loans pursuant to the Small Business Authority’s Paycheck Protection Program, but diverted the funds for his own personal use.

Upon Cox’s departure, Nicholas Ganjei, a career federal prosecutor and EDTX’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney, will serve as Acting U.S. Attorney. Ganjei will become the first Persian-American in the 174-year history of the District to serve as EDTX’s U.S. Attorney (acting or otherwise).

“I expect the transition to be seamless,” said Cox. “Nick and I worked hand-in-glove on setting these office priorities and putting our signature initiatives into motion.  Although I am passing the torch, I’m excited to see where Nick and the leadership team take the office next.”

Cox will return to the private sector and will announce his next role in the coming months, but in the meantime, Cox plans to spend time with the family ticking through some bucket-list items that include sightseeing, camping, and touring the country. 

Cox’s biography can be found here.