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U.S. Attorney's Office to focus on white collar crimes, narcotics trafficking, violence in Indian Country

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U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley.
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After 42 days as North Dakota’s U.S. attorney, Drew Wrigley said he has focused on strengthening the office and plans to add new team members to help prosecute white-collar crimes and narcotics trafficking while also focusing on violence in Indian Country.

Wrigley held the position from 2001-2009 before serving as the lieutenant governor of North Dakota until 2016. He was nominated by President Donald Trump in August 2018 to again be the state’s U.S. attorney and took office in April after his nomination was confirmed through the Senate and Congress.

“I went in there before in my mid-30s as the U.S. attorney, one of the youngest in the country, and now I’m an age-appropriate United States attorney at age 53," he said. "But I ... absolutely feel the same energy and excitement to be back in law enforcement."

Wrigley was in Grand Forks Wednesday and visited the Herald's downtown office.

There are 62 people working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which includes 25 or 26 lawyers, Wrigley said. There are five positions open that Wrigley said he hopes to fill by the end of summer. Lawyers undergo a rigorous panel interview process, which Wrigley compared to a jury.

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Wrigley said the office will continue to investigate large-scale regional, national or international crimes.

He noted the impact made by federal investigators and prosecutors while pursuing frauds and scams, such as the Jamaican lottery scam that led to numerous international convictions.

"In the years of doing fraud investigations, the most common misconception that if I had a magic wand I would fix, is people read those stories and think 'what an idiot.' And that is not understanding the transaction. I've prosecuted so many fraudsters, they all think they're smart and every victim that I talk to ... is victimized in a way that is so harmful to their psychological well-being," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase, who accompanied Wrigley to Grand Forks Wednesday.

Fraudsters often select targets using complicated and sophisticated techniques that can trick even large corporations. Chase said everyone is susceptible to the scams, although elderly people often are targeted.

"... If you have not been defrauded, the right scheme has not been voiced upon you," he said.

The department also is placing focus on white-collar crimes. Wrigley also said he plans to focus on public corruption crimes like misappropriation of public funds, campaign funds and voter fraud.

“The department priorities have kind of remained intact throughout the years because a lot of them are driven, obviously they’re responsive to violent crime in Indian Country, narcotics trafficking,” Wrigley said.

Wrigley said he plans to run the department with transparency, openness and accountability.

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“We get paid by the public to do these interesting, rewarding jobs. … We should get graded by the public, too,” he said.

Tess covers crime and courts for the Grand Forks Herald. She previously worked for the Associated Press, Lincoln Journal Star, Omaha World-Herald and The Voice News. Reach her at (701) 780-1267, twilliams@gfherald.com or on Twitter @ByTessWilliams.
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