Employees of United States Attorney’s Office Receive Special Achievement Awards


From:  News Release   1/19/17   GCN


Gulfport, Miss. - Today, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst recognized members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi with the presentation of the Southern District’s annual awards for superior performance in 2017.


"I want to congratulate these individuals for their significant accomplishments in 2017. They all individually performed above and beyond the call of duty and collectively served the public to the highest degree. Because of their hard work, the people of Mississippi are safer and more secure and their tax dollars have been protected. The public should be proud of these truly dedicated public servants," said U.S. Attorney Hurst.


Robert E. Hauberg Award for Distinguished Service - This award is named in honor of the achievements of former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Robert E. Hauberg, the longest serving United States Attorney in the history of our nation. Mr. Hauberg was renowned for his public spirit including service as a professor and later as Dean of the Jackson School of Law. The Hauberg Award is granted annually by this District to an employee who has displayed superior achievement in their assigned duties and who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in some additional public service that makes a significant impact on the community.


The 2017 recipient of the Robert E. Hauberg Award is Deputy Criminal Chief for Narcotics, John Meynardie. Mr. Meynardie is the Chief of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program in the Southern District, regularly prosecuting major drug cases. In addition, he has gone above and beyond his duties as a prosecutor by preparing and presenting numerous programs to civic groups and area high school students on the dangers of opioid and synthetic drugs. In June 2016, he convened a working group to come up with a District strategy to combat opioids. In October 2016, he created and initiated for the Southern District a pilot program of instruction in area schools entitled "Pills, Needles and Designer Drugs." The initial presentations included a local elementary school and 14 lectures to Biloxi High School students to educate them on the extreme danger of opioids. Mr. Meynardie continues to offer this program to area high schools. He has provided training to other districts on trying diversion cases, and he has taught, and continues to teach, at the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Advocacy Center on topics including drug prosecutions and the opioid epidemic. Mr. Meynardie has done all of this while consistently having the most criminal cases indicted and prosecuted in the Southern District. Recently, his expertise received national attention when he was recognized for indicting a Chinese national as the first manufacturer and distributor of fentanyl and other opiate substances to be indicted in the history of the United States, while being designated as a Consolidated Priority Organization Target (CPOT) by the Drug Enforcement Administration as one of the most significant drug trafficking threats in the world.


James B. Tucker Award for Superior Prosecutorial Service in Criminal Justice – This award is named for the first person to serve as Chief of the Criminal Division in the Southern District. Mr. Tucker distinguished himself in his position and gained a national reputation as a tough but judicious prosecutor throughout the state and throughout the Department of Justice. The award is presented each year to the Criminal Assistant United States Attorney having demonstrated superior prosecutorial service in the Criminal Division throughout the year.

The 2017 recipient of the James B. Tucker Award is Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams. Ms. Williams led the prosecution of an international case dubbed "Operation Scams-R-Us" for which she and her trial team received national recognition. The case involved a large transnational criminal organization based in Nigeria and South Africa, which carried out a multitude of cyber and mail schemes targeting thousands of victims in the United States and elsewhere. The investigation and prosecution resulted in the indictments of 17 Nigerian citizens living in Nigeria, South Africa, Canada and the United States; a South African citizen; and 3 U.S. citizens.


Of the 21 indicted defendants, two died pre-trial, four are fugitives, twelve entered guilty pleas and received sentences ranging from probation to 20 years, and three went to jury trial. The trial included over 60 witnesses, five from the South African Police, two cooperating defendants, and numerous victims from Seattle to Mississippi. The trial lasted sixteen days, ending with all three defendants found guilty of multiple counts. They were sentenced to 25, 95, and 115 years based on over $55,000,000 in losses. The case gained national attention and was recently featured on CNBC News (https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/18/nigerian-con-artists-have-new-ways-theyre-using-to-steal-your-cash.html). Ms. Williams conducted this prosecution while also maintaining a very demanding, heavy caseload of criminal prosecutions.


Daniel E. Lynn Award for Superior Litigation Service in Civil Litigation – This award is named for Daniel E. Lynn, the first person to serve as Chief of the Civil Division in the Southern District. Mr. Lynn set the highest standards of excellence through selfless competence, integrity, and professionalism. The award is presented each year to the Assistant United States Attorney having demonstrated the most superior litigation service affecting the Civil Division throughout the year.


The 2017 recipient of the Daniel E. Lynn Award is Assistant U.S. Attorney Cynthia "Cindy" Eldridge. Over the past year, Mrs. Eldridge handled several significant cases, including Gonzalez v. United States, 851 F.3d 538 (5th Cir. 2017), a Federal Tort Claims Act case that established new case law in the Fifth Circuit. In addition, with the retirement of another long-time Civil AUSA, Ms. Eldridge stepped up and volunteered to take over all bankruptcy matters previously handled by the retiring AUSA encompassing the entire District, requiring extensive travel. For the remaining few months of 2017, she concluded over 50 bankruptcy cases! She has zealously represented federal agencies, including the Small Business Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On a weekly basis, AUSA Eldridge reviews hundreds of filings to determine whether any United States interest requires her intervention.


Ms. Eldridge began her career with the Department of Justice in 1999 as an Assistant United States Attorney in the Civil Division, Southern District of Mississippi. She spent several years in both the Civil and Criminal Divisions, as well as a Resident Legal Advisor overseas with the U.S. Department of Justice. In 2015, she returned to this office as an AUSA in the Civil Division. In addition, Ms. Eldridge continues to be involved in numerous outreach efforts, including as a speaker at a workshop on employment discrimination and at a workshop with the Department’s Community Relations Service. In 2017, she also assisted in training federal agents with the U.S. Forest Service. Throughout 2017, she demonstrated superior advocacy skills and participated in outreach activities that significantly impacted the community, including the law enforcement community, in the Southern District of Mississippi.


Paulette Womack Support Staff Award for Superior Performance - This award was recently re-named to honor Paulette Womack, a long-time, much-loved member of the office who served as Secretary to the first Criminal Division Chief and as the Victim Witness Coordinator for the Southern District. She performed her work with tenacity, persistence and professionalism. This award is presented each year to the Support Staff Employee having demonstrated the most superior efforts in support of the mission of the District, whether it be in the area of administration or legal support.

The 2017 recipient of the Paulette Womack Award is Legal Assistant Deborah Bradford. Ms. Bradford is extremely competent in working on both civil and criminal cases within the office. Her legal knowledge, skills and abilities are unmatched, and she is always enthusiastic and eager to help with any office task. She supports three very busy Assistant U.S. Attorneys in the Gulfport branch office, all of whom rave about her dependability and trustworthiness. Ms. Bradford is dedicated and dependable and often stays well beyond her assigned duty hours to complete her work and help other legal assistants with their work.