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SAN FRANCISCO — Nearly 18 years after he stepped down as U.S. attorney in the San Francisco-based Northern District of California, Joseph Russoniello is back and already looking into potential criminal conduct in the subprime loan markets here. During his first meeting with reporters, Russoniello said his office is looking at the potential of false loan applications, conspiracy in loan marketing and predatory lending practices. The whole area “is something we’re interested in,” Russoniello said. But he made clear at the outset his top priorities are guns, drugs and gangs. “Guns are a scourge, combined with gangs and drugs then are enslaving whole neighborhoods,” Russoniello said. “That will be a number one agenda item,” he said. Russoniello, 65, served as the top federal prosecutor in Northern California for eight years from 1982 to 1990. He prosecuted major espionage cases, Hells Angels on racketeering charges and white-collar cases, including Hitachi and Mitsubishi corporations for theft of IBM trade secrets. He returns to an office that has been in tumult over mismanagement allegations against former U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan. The Justice Department fired Ryan in February and he is now working on anti-gang enforcement with the city of San Francisco. As for medical use of marijuana, which was allowed in California by state voter initiative but remains illegal under federal law, Russoniello said he opposed the medical use law but indicated pushing those prosecutions may be a waste of resources. “We know federal law trumps state laws but it may be unproductive to shovel sand against the tide.” He declined to comment on the potential for expanded prosecution of steroid use in sports or the pending case against former San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds. Nor would he comment on whether his office would bring additional options backdating cases. Russoniello served as senior counsel at Cooley Godward Kronish in the litigation and white collar defense arena after leaving the prosecutor job in the 1990s and has most recently served as dean of the San Francisco Law School.

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