Stephen R. Wigginton, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, has announced his resignation effective Dec. 11. In a press release, Wigginton says he plans on joining a national law firm based in the St. Louis area.
Wigginton was sworn into office Aug. 27, 2010, after nomination by President Barack Obama and unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Wigginton served on the following 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 Joe 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,” Wigginton said. “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. 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.”
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 an aggressive stand targeting prohibited people 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 that exploded over the Metro East in 2011.
Over the past five years, Wigginton 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 a robust 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 approximately 10,000 high school and middle school students throughout Southern Illinois.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Illinois aggressively pursued child exploitation perpetrators and was recognized nationally for the strategic plan it formulated in 2012 showing how an office can increase the number of child exploitation prosecutions during austere times without hiring additional prosecutors.
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. This initiative has been successful in locating, arresting and convicting violent individuals who use guns to rob convenience 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 tenure, the U.S. Attorney’s Office was one of the nation’s leaders 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 more than 45 convictions so far. His office was also one of the nation’s leaders in prosecuting health care fraud.
Wigginton 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 more than $450 million through the aggressive enforcement of civil and criminal actions. He, along with his Affirmative Civil Enforcement Assistants, established a Defense Procurement Fraud Task Force targeting contractors who have defrauded the government during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last year, in a case involving defense contractors engaged in shipping, 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 combating heroin-related crimes and his participation in Project Drugsmart.
The Southern District of Illinois covers the 38 southernmost counties in Illinois, has a population of approximately 1.25 million and encompasses a geographical area about the size of Maryland. The U.S. 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 United States of America.