By JANET WETZNER
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld, a Democrat who has served more than six years, will be leaving his post early in advance of the new Republican administration led by President-elect Donald Trump.
Ihlenfeld will resign effective Dec. 31, he announced Monday.
“I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to serve as U.S. attorney for the past six and a half years,” Ihlenfeld said Monday after speaking during the Ohio County Board of Education meeting. “I work with a tremendous group of crime-fighters in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and I’m proud of all we accomplished.”
Among those accomplishments are numerous drug crimes litigated by Ihlenfeld and his team of prosecutors. Ihlenfeld also secured federal funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy to improve response to the state’s drug epidemic — money that went to West Virginia’s drug task forces, according to a news release.
He and the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office partnered to convict numerous drug offenders in a “first-of-its-kind arrangement” in the state, the release states.
Among Ihlenfeld’s most notable cases was one against HSBC — one of the world’s largest banks — “for its failure to identify money laundering transactions related to Mexican drug trafficking as well as its hiding of transfers made for clients in foreign countries subject to U.S. sanctions,”the release states. “As a result of the investigation, HSBC paid $1.9 billion in fines and penalties and was ordered to make substantial reforms to its operating procedures.”
Ihlenfeld was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama in May 2010 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 5 of that year.
Ihlenfeld said he does not yet have plans for after he leaves the U.S. attorney’s post, but that he’s considering “a number of different options.”The news release states Ihlenfeld plans to return to private law practice in 2017.
His resignation announcement comes eight days after Ihlenfeld spokesman Ashley Lough said Ihlenfeld hadn’t decided when he would leave his post. U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president, and it’s a common practice for them to step down when a new administration takes over, although they’re not required to do so.
On that same day Ihlenfeld said he was awaiting word from the Department of Justice regarding his transition, and that he would work as hard as he can, as long as he can, and “sprint for the finish line.”
As Trump takes office, he likely will replace many U.S. attorneys throughout the country. Past presidents have nominated many candidates from their own political party.
On Dec. 7, Ihlenfeld was named by West Virginia Gov.-elect Jim Justice, a Democrat, as one of his transition team leaders. As co-chairman of the Drug Epidemic Committee, Ihlenfeld and his co-chairman Steve Williams, mayor of Huntington, will be putting together a framework for a statewide strategy to address the drug threat, he said.
The committee held its first meeting last week, Ihlenfeld said.
West Virginia has the most overdose deaths in the country on a per-capita basis, he said.
As the state works out a solution, Ihlenfeld said he’ll employ his experience as U.S. attorney, his 13 years as a state prosecutor and his service on the U.S. Attorney General’s Advisory Committee to reduce the availability of heroin and Fentanyl.
Ihlenfeld also has served on the boards of the Appalachia High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Washington-Baltimore HIDTA, as well. Each group represents some counties in West Virginia, as well as counties in other, neighboring states.
For the Appalachia group that also represents counties in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, Ihlenfeld has served on the executive board for four years, and has been vice chairman this past year, as well as chairman of the budget committee.
Staff Writer Joselyn King contributed to this story.
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