27 Nov 23

What Are the Top Federal Crimes Prosecuted in New York City?

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Last Updated on: 15th December 2023, 01:11 pm

What Are the Top Federal Crimes Prosecuted in New York City?

New York City is known for having some of the strictest gun laws in the country. So it’s no surprise that firearm offenses are among the top federal crimes prosecuted in NYC. Federal prosecutors go after cases involving the illegal possession, sale, or use of guns–especially cases involving violent offenders or organized gang activity. Guns illegally purchased in other states and brought into NYC are a major focus.

Another major category of federal cases in New York City is drug trafficking. Federal prosecutors target large-scale narcotics distribution operations involving heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, and prescription opioids like oxycodone. Drug trafficking cases often involve organized crime groups and gangs. There is a particular focus on stopping the flow of drugs into New York City from other places.

Immigration crimes are also frequently prosecuted at the federal level in New York City. Cases involve illegal re-entry into the U.S. by immigrants who were previously deported. There are also cases involving immigration fraud, such as fake marriages arranged to get green cards.

Financial crimes are a major priority as well in a city that is a global financial hub. Federal prosecutors go after money laundering, investment fraud, and other white collar offenses. Major recent cases include prosecutions related to the 1MDB scandal and cryptocurrency fraud schemes.

Public corruption is another key area. Federal prosecutors have brought cases against elected officials like former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for abusing their offices for personal gain. Police corruption cases are also prosecuted at the federal level.

Other major categories of federal cases in New York City include racketeering offenses, child pornography, human trafficking, cybercrimes, robbery, kidnapping, and civil rights violations. Federal resources allow prosecutors to take on complex, multi-jurisdictional cases involving sophisticated criminal organizations.

Federal prosecutors in New York City have a broad mandate to tackle major criminal threats in the city. They focus on cases where federal laws, resources and sentencing options give them the strongest tools. Cooperation with local law enforcement and prosecutors allows strategic deployment of federal power against pressing public safety challenges.

Notable Recent Federal Cases

Here are some of the most high-profile federal cases prosecuted in New York City in recent years:

  • The prosecution of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexican drug kingpin, on drug trafficking, money laundering and weapons charges. He was sentenced to life in prison.
  • The takedown of Peter Gotti, head of the Gambino crime family, on racketeering and murder conspiracy charges.
  • The conviction of Sheldon Silver, former New York Assembly Speaker, for corruption.
  • The case against NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere for sex trafficking, forced labor and racketeering.
  • The prosecution of Jeffrey Epstein for sex trafficking of underage girls before his death.
  • The indictment of rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine and other members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang for racketeering.
  • The case against Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland for wire fraud.
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These cases garnered national attention and demonstrated the wide scope of federal prosecution priorities in New York City, from organized crime and drug trafficking to corruption, sex crimes and financial fraud.

Cooperation Between Federal and Local Authorities

There are two U.S. Attorney’s Offices with jurisdiction in New York City – the Southern District of New York (SDNY) and Eastern District of New York (EDNY). These offices cooperate closely with local law enforcement like the NYPD, as well as state prosecutors like the Manhattan DA.

Joint federal-local task forces target specific criminal threats like gang violence, terrorism, securities fraud or child exploitation. Information sharing and coordination of investigative resources help make cases on complex crimes that cross jurisdictional boundaries.

Strategic case allocation leverages both federal and state criminal statutes. Federal prosecution may be favored in cases where harsher sentences are available under federal sentencing guidelines. Cooperative efforts help expand the impact of law enforcement in New York City.

Federal vs. State Prosecution in New York City

In some cases, a defendant could potentially be charged under either federal or New York state law. Factors that favor federal prosecution include:

  • Interstate activity – crimes crossing state borders fall under federal jurisdiction.
  • Use of instrumentalities of interstate commerce like cars, planes or the internet.
  • Complex multi-jurisdictional cases involving sophisticated criminal organizations.
  • Harsher federal sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimums.
  • Prevention of local corruption or bias.
  • Greater resources and experience with certain crimes like terrorism or securities fraud.

Factors favoring state prosecution include:

  • Stronger state evidence when federal evidence is lacking.
  • Practical or logistical factors like faster trials in state court.
  • Availability of specific state charges without federal equivalent.
  • Desire for local community standards to determine punishment.
  • State sentencing guidelines fit the crime better.

Prosecutors weigh these factors on a case-by-case basis. The goal is to ensure justice is served whether through federal or state prosecution.


Federal prosecutors in New York City use their unique tools and powers to target major criminal threats in the city, from gun violence to corruption. Cooperation with local law enforcement allows strategic deployment of federal resources. Federal prosecution is favored when harsher sentences or interstate resources are needed. By tackling sophisticated criminal activity that crosses boundaries, federal prosecution makes New York City safer.