Today, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the recipients for the 69th Annual Attorney General’s Awards, recognizing Department of Justice employees and partners for extraordinary contributions to the enforcement of our nation’s laws. This year, two Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Middle District of North Carolina were awarded the Attorney General’s David Margolis Award, along with multiple law enforcement partners, for the exemplary work targeting the Emotet malware operation. The Attorney General’s David Margolis Award is the department’s highest award for employee performance.
“This year’s awardees have served selflessly to further the Department’s important work upholding the rule of law, keeping our country safe, and protecting civil rights,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, speaking of all the award recipients. “I am proud to recognize these individuals for their professionalism, skill, and leadership, and I am grateful for their service to our Department and our nation.”
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Iverson and Ramaswamy were recognized today for their role as part of a multinational operation involving actions in the United States, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom disrupting Emotet malware and botnet. According to court documents, Emotet was a family of malware that targets critical industries worldwide, including banking, e-commerce, healthcare, academia, government, and technology. Emotet malware primarily infected victim computers through spam email messages containing malicious attachments or hyperlinks. Emails were designed to appear to come from a legitimate source or someone in the recipient’s contact list. Once it infected a victim computer, Emotet could deliver additional malware to the infected computer, such as ransomware or malware that steals financial credentials.
Emotet operators targeted over 1.6 million computers worldwide between April 1, 2020, and January 17, 2021, including approximately 45,000 located in the United States. Attacks from this software cost millions in losses, including $1.4 million in losses in the Middle District of North Carolina, where the software targeted North Carolina school districts in 2017. Since then, multiple other victims in North Carolina have been the target of this software, causing more damage and financial loss to the citizens of the Middle District. In addition to financial loss, these cyber-attacks disrupted business operations, interfered with government services, and harmed critical infrastructure in multiple countries.
“AUSAs Iverson and Ramaswamy committed countless hours to this case and to protecting the digital security of businesses and private citizens in the Middle District of North Carolina, and beyond. In coordination with our law enforcement partners, they have gone above and beyond to protect the information and privacy of individuals all over the world,” said U.S. Attorney Sandra Hairston. “They are extremely well deserving of this award and of the recognition for their service by the Attorney General.”
“The Emotet malware investigation began with a small North Carolina school system and quickly elevated to one of the top cyber threats in the world. Our special agents, computer scientists, and analysts worked tirelessly with local, federal and international partners on this case, and we are honored they are being recognized nationally for their extraordinary work,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert R. Wells of the FBI Charlotte Field Office.
Attorney General Garland recognized Supervisory Special Agent Jessica A. Nye, Special Agents Peter Ahearn, Jr, Blair H. Newman, and John A. Maser, Computer Scientists Lindsey Chiesa and Naomi R. Patrick, Charlotte Field Office; Supervisory Special Agent Thomas S. Breeden, Baltimore Field Office; Supervisory Special Agent Carrie A. Crot, Cyber Division; Intelligence Analyst Sean A. McDermott, Richmond Division, FBI and; Senior Counsel Ryan Kao Jeung Dickey, Criminal Division along with AUSAs Iverson and Ramaswamy.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of North Carolina, the FBI Charlotte Division, and the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) conducted the operation in close cooperation with Europol and Eurojust who were an integral part of coordination and messaging, and investigators and prosecutors from several jurisdictions, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, France’s National Police and Judicial Court of Paris, Germany’s Federal Criminal Police and General Public Prosecutor’s Office Frankfurt/Main, Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau, Netherlands National Police and National Public Prosecution Office, Swedish Police Authority, National Police of Ukraine and Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) also provided significant assistance. CCIPS Senior Counsel Ryan K.J. Dickey and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric Iverson and Anand Ramaswamy of the Middle District of North Carolina led the U.S. efforts.