Kamal Ghali, Bondurant Mixson & Elmore, Atlanta. (Photo: John Disney/ALM)

Federal prosecutor Kamal Ghali has returned to Bondurant Mixson & Elmore after six years as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, where he prosecuted economic fraud cases and rose to deputy chief of the cyber and intellectual property crimes section.

“I loved being an assistant U.S. attorney, and I worked for three amazing U.S. attorneys, Sally Yates, John Horn and BJay Pak,” Ghali said.

Ghali decided to make the move to Bondurant because of a “strong entrepreneurial drive,” he said. “I always wanted to build my own legal practice, especially in areas I’m really passionate about.”

Ghali, who joined Bondurant on Jan. 7 as of counsel, is leading the cybersecurity practice for the firm, which handles complex and business litigation. He also will handle white-collar criminal defense cases arising from government investigations.

Bondurant does not recruit lateral partners, but Ghali worked there for three years as an associate before landing the federal prosecutor job in 2012.

“We are delighted that he is coming back home,” said Bondurant partner John Floyd. “Kamal’s experience leading some of the most sophisticated cyber investigations and trials in the country will help our clients navigate the wide spectrum of legal challenges that cyber threats present.”

Ghali prosecuted both economic fraud and cybercrime cases at the Northern District.

With Alison Prout and lead prosecutor Thomas Krepp, he prosecuted a five-week investment fraud trial last fall against the owners of Sterling Currency Group—a large Iraqi dinar currency exchange that attracted $600 million from investors eager to get rich from its promises that the Iraqi government was set to revalue the dinar. Co-owners Tyson Rhame and James Shaw with COO Frank Bill were each convicted of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud by a federal jury.

One major cyber case that Ghali prosecuted with AUSAs Steven Grimberg and Scott Ferber led to the 2015 conviction of “one of the world’s most nefarious malware developers,” according to special agent J. Britt Johnson of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, who led the investigation.

Russian hacker Aleksandr Andreevich Panin developed an easy-to-use banking Trojan horse malware, called Spyeye, that cybercriminals deployed to infect over 50 million computers globally, causing close to $1 billion in harm to individuals and financial institutions.

Panin received a 9½-year sentence, and Algerian hacker, Hamza Bendelladj, a key promoter and user of Spyeye, is serving 15 years.

Atlanta is one of the leading U.S. attorney offices for prosecuting cyber cases, Ghali said, explaining that the perpetrators for many cyberattacks are global, and the attack could hit several cities at once.

“We have a very forward-leaning FBI field office that has been at the forefront of some large cyber cases,” he said, noting that the Atlanta FBI office led the Spyeye investigation.

Atlanta also is home to many corporate headquarters, including those of a number of large companies that have reported breaches. “And those are just the ones publicly reported,” Ghali said, adding that the FBI’s Atlanta field office receives hundreds of calls about cyber breaches every year.

The cybercrimes unit for the Atlanta U.S. Attorney’s Office started out as a unit of the economic crimes section until incoming U.S. Attorney BJay Pak made it a separate section a year ago, with Ghali and Nathan Kitchens as deputy chiefs and Doug Gilfillan as chief.

Gilfillan also returned to private practice recently, joining Kilpatrick Townsend Stockton & Crews as a partner in October. Pak has not yet announced a new cyber chief.