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U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan handed out a series of management promotions Tuesday that highlight the growing emphasis federal prosecutors have placed on Silicon Valley. He topped off the list by naming as chief of the criminal division Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross Nadel, who had started the office’s first-in-the-nation Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property, or CHIP, unit, in San Jose. In a statement, Ryan said Nadel’s elevation “signals the significance of computer and intellectual property and sophisticated white-collar crimes in the Northern District of California.” Nadel replaces Charles “Ben” Burch, whom Ryan had appointed as criminal chief when he was first sworn into office a year ago. Ryan said Burch had only signed on to lead the office during the transition period and wanted to return to the Oakland office. “Ben was absolutely the right person for the job at that point in time, and the entire office has benefited from his wisdom, hard work and dedication,” Ryan said. First Assistant U.S. Attorney C. Don Clay called Burch’s move “amicable and mutual,” adding that “Ben had continued to remind the U.S. attorney, ‘Remember, I am only doing this for a year.’” Burch did not return a call for comment. Nadel said he intends to continue work on a select number of CHIP cases while managing the criminal division, including an economic espionage case — only the second of its kind — filed against two Chinese nationals. “Kevin Ryan has made it clear from the beginning that computer and intellectual property offenses were one of his priorities,” Nadel said. Lawyers in and outside Ryan’s office praised Nadel’s promotion. “Ross is one of the consummate professionals in the office with the combination of prosecutorial zeal and the understanding of what’s a crime and what isn’t, so people don’t get improperly charged,” said Scott Frewing, former assistant U.S. attorney and CHIP unit member who is now of counsel with Baker & McKenzie. Nadel started his career as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California before joining the Northern District in 1982. He supervised the white-collar/economic crime, major crime, organized crime and drug enforcement units in the San Francisco office before coming to San Jose three years ago. “He has been sort of the Swiss Army knife of the U.S. attorney’s office,” said former AUSA David Anderson, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop. To assist Nadel, Ryan tapped Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel Beeler for the newly created position of deputy criminal chief. Beeler, who joined the office eight years ago, will spend half of her time as a paid manager and the other half working on security cases. “I’m excited about the opportunity to serve the office in this new position,” Beeler said. Ryan also named AUSA Joann Swanson chief of the civil division. Swanson, who has been the acting chief, didn’t return a call seeking comment. In San Jose, where Nadel had been serving as the office head since the demotion earlier this year of AUSA Elizabeth De La Vega, Ryan named a pair of newcomers to key roles. AUSA Matthew Parrella will take over as San Jose bureau chief, while AUSA Christopher Sonderby will head up Nadel’s CHIP unit. Parrella joined the Northern District’s CHIP unit in October and was named deputy chief in January. He’s one of three experienced prosecutors who have transferred from the U.S. attorney’s office in Las Vegas, where he spent five years as the computer and telecommunications coordinator. Before that, he was a prosecutor in Long Island, N.Y., for 12 years, handling violent crimes and homicides. Sonderby will now supervise the CHIP unit, which has three part-time and four to five full-time attorneys. He spent five years as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of California and supervised the computer crimes unit in Sacramento before joining the CHIP unit in January. Before that, he was a litigation associate at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal for five years. Sonderby said he plans to build on past successes, “so the office can continue to be the model of other high-tech units around the country. “I think Ross more than anybody understands the importance of high-tech crimes and aggressively prosecuting them.” The promotions were met with enthusiasm by San Jose-based AUSA David Callaway. “That’s a great chain of command — Matt Parrella to Ross Nadel to Kevin Ryan,” he said. “The buzz in this office is all positive.” And that might have been the point. Clay said the office sees San Jose as a growth area, pointing out that the 14 assistant U.S. attorneys there currently shoulder the largest caseloads in the Northern District, handling 64 cases and matters under investigation per attorney, compared with 62 in Oakland and San Francisco. “We would hope to double the size of that office. Clearly, the population base justifies that,” Clay said, adding that the San Jose office is moving to a new space in the next six months. Parrella won’t turn away the help. “We are each carrying a lot of extremely complex cases,” Parrella said. “I would anticipate expansion of this branch.”

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