Special to Iredell Free News
CHARLOTTE – Andrew Murray, United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, has announced that he will be stepping down as U.S. Attorney, effective midnight on Sunday, February 28.
Following Murray’s departure, First Assistant United States Attorney William Stetzer will serve as Acting U.S. Attorney.
“It has been a privilege to serve the people of the Western District and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such an extraordinary group of consummate, dedicated and experienced public servants. I am proud of our accomplishments and our collective hard work to protect communities across the district and to seek justice,” Murray said.
Murray was appointed by President Trump and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2017.
Under Murray’s leadership, the Office has prosecuted cases involving gangs, violent crime, firearms, domestic and international drug trafficking, immigration, human trafficking, child exploitation, investment fraud, elder fraud, COVID-19 fraud, securities and banking fraud, tax fraud, healthcare fraud and cybercrime. The office has also successfully litigated numerous affirmative civil enforcement actions and has reached significant civil settlements involving False Claims Act and antitrust violations. The office’s civil litigation practice has also seen notable successes in civil forfeiture and the defense of federal employees and agencies sued in federal court. Murray has supervised complex litigations and has overseen high-profile cases, including the $3 billion settlement with Wells Fargo over unscrupulous sales practices; the anti-trust settlement with Atrium, the largest hospital system in North Carolina; and the criminal prosecution of United States v. Lindberg et al., one of North Carolina’s most prominent bribery cases involving public officials.
During his tenure, Murray has focused on establishing strategies to reduce violent crime by implementing the Justice Department’s reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative. PSN is a collaborative effort by federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors and communities to prevent and deter gang and gun violence. In addition to criminal prosecutions, under U.S. Attorney Murray’s direction, the office has worked closely with local and state law enforcement agencies and non-government organizations to ensure they receive federal PSN grants, to assist in their work to reduce violent crime in their communities.
Murray has also focused on combating the heroin and opioid epidemic and its devastating effects on communities. During Murray’s tenure, the office concentrated on investigating and prosecuting high-level Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) and drug traffickers operating on the Dark Web. The district also formed the Heroin Education Action Team (HEAT), to heighten awareness and educate the public about the increased danger of heroin and opioid addiction.
In March 2019, Murray also announced the district’s Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) to combat the neglect, abuse, and financial exploitation of seniors. Since the inception of EJI, the office has actively engaged in efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams impacting seniors, hold training seminars for older adults and caretakers on how to identify and respond to elderly exploitation and financial schemes, and promote greater coordination with federal state and local law enforcement partners to combat elder financial exploitation and abuse.
Murray has also led the Office through significant challenges, including the longest-ever government shutdown and the devastating coronavirus pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, Murray also has directed the office’s criminal and civil prosecutors to remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis and to concentrate on stopping bad actors from exploiting important government-funded COVID relief programs.
“Despite considerable difficulties, we have increased the Office’s workforce with additional prosecutors and support staff, and we have steadfastly continued to handle high-volume cases and fulfill our mission,” he said. “Our accomplishments are a testament to the hard work of the men and women in this Office. It has been a privilege to have served with such dedicated colleagues and I have the utmost respect for their commitment to the pursuit of justice.”
Murray has also worked closely with federal, state, and local law enforcement counterparts to improve the intake process of cases for federal criminal prosecution. The Office created a collaborative program wherein Assistant U.S. Attorneys are assigned to specific District Attorney’s (DA’s) Offices in WDNC and are paired with state prosecutors from that DA’s office. This symbiotic relationship serves to maximize information sharing and expedite the triage of joint jurisdiction cases to ensure that the most appropriate prosecution path is pursued to protect the public and obtain justice.
“The collective goal of all law enforcement officers and prosecutors is to protect law-abiding citizens and hold law-breakers accountable for their actions. I have spent over 30 years as a public servant, both in the civilian and military sectors, and I can say with certainty that the talented men and women of the U.S. Attorney’s Office who have chosen a career in public service have a deep commitment to the people they serve and to our country. It has been a privilege and an honor to have served with each and every one of them. I could not have been more blessed than to have led such a selfless team that strives every day to simply do what is right and just.”