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U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan has replaced the head of his San Jose bureau, putting his high-tech crime guru in charge of the office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross Nadel — who heads the computer hacking and intellectual property unit — quietly took the reins from Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth De La Vega 10 days ago. He’ll manage 19 attorneys, including former chief attorney De La Vega, said office spokesman Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs. De La Vega joined the San Jose office in 1994 and was promoted to bureau chief in 1998 by then U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller. Mueller said her experience prosecuting computer and financial crimes as an assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco and Minneapolis made her a good fit. But Friday, Ryan said Nadel’s expertise with high-tech crimes made him the most appropriate choice. “Betsy has done an outstanding job of helping turn the San Jose branch into a strong and aggressive office, and I appreciate her hard work and dedication over the last several years,” Ryan said. “It is my view that sometimes change is needed to keep an office fresh,” he said. “Ross Nadel is one of the most experienced and talented lawyers in the office, and he has turned the computer CHIP unit into a model for the rest of the country.” Nadel’s promotion is Ryan’s latest management move. In August, he named Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nerney as head of the new anti-terrorism unit and a month later he chose Oakland criminal defense attorney C. Don Clay as his first assistant. Nadel could not be reached for comment Friday, and De La Vega did not return calls. Nadel headed up the general crimes division before being named head of the CHIP unit in February 2000. The unit has since been replicated in nine other jurisdictions. The San Jose CHIP unit was the first to go to trial with a prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. A jury recently acquitted defendant Russian software company Elcomsoft Co. Ltd. in December. And the unit was the second to indict for economic espionage under the 1996 Economic Espionage Act. In another recent management move, Ryan named Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Howden as head of the narcotics and organized crime drug enforcement task force unit. Howden, who currently serves as deputy chief of the unit, will replace Jeffrey Cole, who is taking an overseas assignment with the Justice Department. Ryan had just named Cole narcotics chief in August. Karen Beausey will take over as deputy chief of narcotics.

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