NEW YORK (AP) - U.S. Attorney Damian Williams, who presides over one of the largest and busiest offices of prosecutors in the nation in Manhattan, issued what amounts to a casting call for whistleblowers Wednesday in a bid to discover non-violent crimes his office doesn't yet know about.
The prosecutor whose Southern District of New York staff in the last year won convictions in high-profile cases against FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried and a gynecologist who prosecutors said had sexually abused a "staggering number of victims," launched what was labeled as the "SDNY Whistleblower Pilot Program."
In the last 15 years, the office has successfully prosecuted numerous terrorists, mobsters, sex abusers and white-collar criminals, including Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, who admitted fleecing thousands of investors out of roughly $20 billion over several decades, and Ghislaine Maxwell, convicted of sex trafficking in a case stemming from financier Jeffrey's Epstein's decadeslong sex abuse of teenage girls.
Williams said he was hopeful that a whistleblower might alert the office to "the next Madoff case" before the full harm had been done and at a time when prosecutors had not heard of it and it wasn't known publicly. In return, he said, the whistleblower could earn a non-prosecution deal even if the individual had a minor role in the crime.
He said he hoped the program would "help us bring more misconduct to light and better protect the communities we serve."
"This program, this new policy, the idea behind it is we’re trying to figure out what we don’t know," he told reporters who cover the courts and meet informally with Williams at least once a year.
"There are plenty of people, I imagine, out there who have some exposure who are laboring under the anxiety that they’ve done something wrong and they don’t want to live in fear, who, if they hear about it, we hope they end up giving us a call," he said. "There’s a path for them."
He added: "Our message to the world remains: ‘Call us before we call you.’"
Williams also announced that his office, which employs nearly 300 prosecutors, is adding the fight against fentanyl and public corruption to priorities he has embraced since he took up the post in 2021. Existing priorities include prosecutions over violent crime, corruption in financial markets and civil rights violations.