President Trump on Friday nominated the senior litigation counsel in the Massachusetts US attorney’s office to become the state’s top federal prosecutor.
Andrew E. Lelling, a 47-year-old who lives in Sharon with his wife, Dana, and their two children, has worked at the US attorney’s office in Boston for 12 years, according to a White House statement released Friday.
During that stint, Lelling prosecuted white-collar crime and international drug trafficking cases, among other offenses, the White House said.
Lelling helped spearhead the prosecution of a billion-dollar pyramid scheme that defrauded almost 2 million investors. A former executive was sentenced to six years in federal prison for his role in that scheme earlier this year.
He also helped prosecute Carlos Rafael, a New Bedford fishing magnate known as the Codfather, who pleaded guilty in March to mislabeling hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish, which allowed him to skirt federal rules and increase his profit margin.
If confirmed, Lelling would have the power to set the federal law enforcement agenda for Boston. The US attorney oversees hundreds of cases each year, and has a staff of 200 in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester, according to the Department of Justice’s website. The office prosecutes an array of crimes, including cases that involve national security, white-collar crime, public corruption, cybercrime, drug and money laundering, organized crime, gang violence, and civil rights violations, according to the site. The office works with federal agencies such as the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Lelling was one of three local federal prosecutors to interview for the post earlier this year after the former US attorney, Carmen Ortiz, resigned in January. A sitting US attorney traditionally leaves office when a new party takes over control of the White House; Trump was elected president last November and inaugurated in January.
Ortiz was an appointee of President Barack Obama; her seven-plus years as US attorney in Boston were marked by her successful prosecutions of former South Boston crime kingpin James “Whitey” Bulger and Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. She also had attracted complaints that she was overzealous, especially when it came to pursuing public corruption cases.
Ortiz recently announced she would join the Boston law firm Anderson & Kreiger, where she will handle internal investigations, corporate compliance, litigation, and white-collar defense. She is also teaching this fall at Boston College Law School.
Acting US Attorney William D. Weinreb and Leah B. Foley, who prosecutes high-profile drug trafficking and sex trafficking crimes for the US attorney’s office in Boston, were the other two local candidates for the position. It was unclear earlier this year whether any candidates from outside Massachusetts were seriously considered for the post.
Lawyers familiar with the process told the Globe earlier this year that no local committee or senior Republican helped screen applicants, as has been past practice. Governor Charlie Baker, though a Republican, did not endorse Trump.
Baker’s office issued a statement of support Friday night.
“The administration is pleased that Attorney Lelling has been nominated as the next US attorney and looks forward to continued cooperation with our federal partners to support law enforcement and public safety in our communities,’’ said Lizzy Guyton, a spokeswoman for Baker.
Previously, Lelling had served as an assistant US attorney in the eastern district of Virginia and as a counsel to the assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice’s civil rights division during President George W. Bush’s administration.
He received his undergraduate degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.
Lelling was one of nine US attorney nominations the Trump administration announced on Friday. The Senate has to confirm the nominees before they can assume their respective offices.