From Illinois Business Journal news services
Stephen R. Wigginton, the United States attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, has announced he will resign his office effective midnight on Dec. 11 and plans on joining a national law firm based in St. Louis.
Wigginton was sworn into office on Aug. 27, 2010, after nomination by President Barack Obama and unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Wigginton in January will join the firm of Armstrong Teasdale, a law firm with offices across the U.S. and in China. He will focus on large commercial class action suits, complex litigation involving corporate malfeasance, and qui tam cases. He also has experience representing municipalities and other governmental entities as well as colleges and universities in a wide range of litigation matters.
“We’re looking forward to the energy, unique experiences and expertise that Steve will bring to the firm in the new year,” said Michael A. Chivell, managing partner at Armstrong Teasdale. “The litany of honors that he’s received in his time as a U.S. Attorney is indicative of his work ethic, dedication and personal character. This addition gives our litigation practice an enhanced national scope and will broaden opportunities for the firm and our clients.”
Wigginton served on the several subcommittees and working groups of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee: Violent and Organized Crime, Health Care Fraud, Civil Rights and Controlled Substances/Asset Forfeiture. From December 2012 to the present he has served as chairman of the Violent and Organized Crime subcommittee.
In December 2012 he was appointed as the U.S. attorney’s representative on the Violent Crime Resource Working Group supporting Vice President Biden’s Violent Crime Task Force in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings. He is also a member of the Attorney General’s Health Care Fraud Working Group, and, served as the representative for the U.S. Attorney Community on the Nation’s Threat Mitigation Working Group.
“It has been an honor to serve as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. Words cannot express the appreciation I have for the opportunity to serve the people of Southern Illinois, granted to me by the efforts of Senator Dick Durbin, the nomination by President Barack Obama and the unanimous support of the Senate,” he said in a statement.
“It is truly a privilege to work with the many men and women in law enforcement at the federal, state and local level who risk their lives daily to make our communities safer. The dedicated professionals in this United States Attorney’s office have performed outstanding work over the past five years and will continue to do so in the future.
“I have been fortunate to work with two great leaders, former Attorney General Eric Holder and current Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The leadership, support and advice of the past and present attorneys general have allowed our office and the Department of Justice as a whole to perform at the highest levels and achieve extraordinary success not only in the Southern District of Illinois but across this great nation. Having served as the United States Attorney for over five years, I witnessed many challenges and my office met every challenge. We viewed challenges as opportunities to do tough work, make difficult decisions and always, always, seek justice,” the statement said.
During his tenure, Wigginton directed and oversaw many law enforcement operations targeting violent crime, public corruption, fraud on government programs, health care fraud and crimes involving the exploitation of children. He took a very aggressive stand targeting prohibited persons from possessing weapons. He worked closely with the St. Clair County and Madison County State’s Attorneys’ offices to combat violent crime and the heroin epidemic which exploded over the Metro-East area in 2011.
Over the past five years, Wigginton said he substantially increased the number of prosecutions of public officials and law enforcement officers caught violating the law. This included elected officials, police chiefs, police officers, probation officers, federal correctional officers, water clerks, township officials and mayors.
In March, 2011, he along with the St. Clair County and Madison County State’s Attorneys’ offices formed the Anti-Heroin Task Force and focused not just on the prosecution of heroin dealers but also engaged in an educational program at area high schools and middle schools to educate parents and children about the danger of heroin and other opiate-based prescription drugs. He has spoken to more than 10,000 high school and middle school students throughout Southern Illinois.
The United States Attorney’s Office aggressively pursued child exploitation perpetrators and was recognized nationally for the strategic plan they formulated in 2012 showing how an office can increase the number of child exploitation prosecutions during austere times without hiring additional prosecutors, he said.
In September 2013, Wigginton formed the Metro East Armed Robbery Initiative, bringing together local, state and federal law enforcement to address the increase in armed robberies of commercial establishments. The initiative has been “wildly successful” in locating, arresting and convicting violent individuals who use guns to rob convenient marts, retail stores, restaurants and banks.
Wigginton oversaw many operations targeting individuals who defrauded federally funded programs such as Medicaid, Social Security, the Railroad Retirement Board and grant programs. He also focused on consumer fraud crimes such telemarketing scams.
During his time the office cracked down in prosecuting and convicting telemarketing and mass marketing fraudsters. Wigginton’s office obtained more than 50 convictions in one telemarketing scam arising out of Florida.
His Operation Home Alone program, which pursues individuals who falsely claim to be performing personal assistant services and billing a fund administered by the State of Illinois, and funded by federal tax dollars, has resulted in over 45 convictions so far.
Wigginton said his office also aggressively pursued many affirmative civil enforcement actions against individuals and corporations involved in defrauding the government. During the past five years his office has recovered over $450 million through the aggressive enforcement of both civil and criminal actions. He, along with his Affirmative Civil Enforcement Assistants, established a Defense Procurement Fraud Task Force targeting those contractors who have defrauded the government during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last year, in a case involving defense contractors engaged in shipping, United States Attorney Wigginton’s office recovered $32 million from the contractors.
As the chairman of the Violent and Organized Crime Subcommittee, Wigginton has been invited to speak at a number of regional as well as national conferences on the issue of gun violence. He has hosted meetings with law enforcement officials in Baltimore, Camden, Chicago, Indianapolis and Philadelphia. He received the Olympian Award from the Southern Illinois Police Chiefs Association for his leadership in tackling violent crime. He received the Extra Effort Award from the Edwardsville School District for his work in combating heroin related crimes and his participation in Project Drugsmart.
The Southern District of Illinois covers the 38 southern-most counties in Illinois, has a population of approximately 1.25 million people and encompasses a geographical area about the size of Maryland. The United States Attorney’s Office, with staffed offices in East St. Louis, Benton and Fairview Heights has 32 attorneys and is responsible for conducting all criminal and civil litigation in the district on behalf of the federal government.