U.S. Attorney Robert M. Duncan, Jr. Announces Resignation
LEXINGTON, KY (STL.News) United States Attorney Robert M. Duncan, Jr. has announced his resignation, effective midnight, Sunday, January 24, 2021. Following his resignation, he will enter the private practice of law in Lexington.
“It has been a true honor and privilege to lead this Office, an office that has a demonstrated commitment to fairness and justice, and a long history of handling tough and important cases,” stated Duncan. “I began my career in this Office nearly sixteen years ago as an Assistant United States Attorney and have been blessed to work with many talented and dedicated men and women along the way. I would like to thank my colleagues in the Office for their hard work and commitment in support of our mission. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated and professional attorneys and support staff, who make our Office successful.”
“Throughout my career, I have also been privileged to work with our law enforcement partners at the federal, state, and local levels. These brave men and women selflessly serve and protect the citizens of the Eastern District of Kentucky and beyond. I have been honored to partner with them in the protection of the public and the pursuit of justice.”
“I am proud of the work we have undertaken during my tenure as United States Attorney – important work on behalf of the citizens of the Eastern District of Kentucky. In partnership with our law enforcement colleagues, we have implemented efforts to reduce violent crime; we have fought to disrupt the flow of deadly drugs, including opioids and methamphetamine, into our communities; we have combatted fraud and public corruption; we have sought justice for victims; and we have endeavored to faithfully enforce the law.”
“We’ve implemented these efforts despite several challenges, including the longest federal government shutdown in history and a global pandemic that has upended our lives. While there is always more to be done, I am proud of what we have accomplished.”
Under Duncan’s leadership, the Office marked noteworthy achievements in violent crime enforcement, controlled substances enforcement, combatting public corruption and fraud, and its significant change in staff. Some of these achievements include the following:
Violent Crime – The Office worked in conjunction with federal, state, and local partners, to reinforce its commitment to holding offenders accountable for the commission of violent criminal acts and unlawful possession of firearms, including armed drug trafficking, armed robberies, and shootings. From Fiscal Year 2018 through Fiscal Year 2020, the Office prosecuted a total of 525 defendants throughout the District, as part of the Project Safe Neighborhoods or Project Guardian programs. Critically, the majority of those convicted of federal firearms related crimes received a federal sentence of greater than five years in prison.
As part of the commitment to address violent crime, Duncan spearheaded the creation of the Fayette County Violent Crime Task Force, a joint, multi-jurisdictional effort to combat violent crime and drug trafficking in Lexington. The Task Force was formed as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods initiative, which focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and coordinates with locally-based prevention and reentry programs in an effort to achieve lasting reductions in crime. From January 2018 to the present, 70 cases have been prosecuted federally as part of the Fayette County Violent Crime Task Force, along with countless prosecutions by state authorities.
Controlled Substances – The Office prioritized the controlled substance enforcement, aggressively prosecuting transnational criminal organizations supplying drugs to eastern Kentucky, continuing its aggressive prosecution of overdose cases caused by drugs (particularly opioids), and targeting opioid related healthcare fraud for prosecution.
Included in this effort, the Office participated in several Department of Justice initiatives, including the Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, aimed at identifying medical professionals who commit acts of opioid related healthcare fraud, and the Synthetic Opioid Surge program, which provided resources to combat fentanyl trafficking in Fayette County. In eastern and southeastern Kentucky, the Office partnered with federal, state, and local law enforcement to vigorously prosecute methamphetamine trafficking and its related violence.
Public Corruption and Fraud – The Office maintained its longstanding commitment to prioritizing public corruption, partnering with the FBI and others to identify and prosecute cases of corruption involving federal, state, and local offices. Notable cases included the prosecution of Gerald Lundergan and Dale Emmons, for illegal campaign contributions; Beth Sallee, the former Jackson County Treasurer, for wire fraud and identity theft; and Lexington businessman Wayne Wellman, for obstruction of justice related to a bribery investigation.
Similarly, the Office prosecuted many complex fraud schemes, including cases involving the exploitation of elderly individuals and romance scams, and used affirmative civil enforcement efforts, under the False Claims Act (a federal law that prohibits the submission of false or fraudulent claims to the federal government), to hold individuals and entities accountable for committing fraud against the government, including healthcare fraud and other efforts to defraud, waste, and abuse federal funds.
Office Administration – The Office also hired 16 new Assistant United States Attorneys, to prosecute cases and represent the government in civil litigation, and nearly twenty support staff personnel, to support the Office’s litigation efforts. These hires represent approximately a third of the Office’s total employees.
More generally, the Office saw increases in federal prosecutions during Duncan’s tenure. The Office saw increases in the total number of criminal defendants prosecuted (by more than 18 percent from Fiscal Years 2017 to 2018, and 27 percent from Fiscal Years 2018 to 2019) and continued to prosecute significant numbers of defendants, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Office has also achieved meaningful recoveries for the government and victims of crime. Over the past three years, the Office has collected and received judgments for more than $92 million in criminal penalties, civil recoveries, forfeited assets, and restitution.
Duncan was appointed by President Trump as the twenty-third presidentially appointed United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky. Duncan was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate, on November 9, 2017, and he was sworn in as United States Attorney on November 21, 2017.
As United States Attorney, Duncan also served nationally, as the Chairman of the Heroin-Opioid Working Group for the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, providing advice and recommendations about policy initiatives to combat the opioid crisis across the country. He also served on the Controlled Substances Subcommittee; the Management, Budget, and Personnel Subcommittee, and the Law Enforcement Coordination Subcommittee for the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee. More recently, he served as a member of the Department of Justice’s eLitigation Steering Committee, working to enhance discovery practices and procedures across the federal law enforcement community, as a representative for United States Attorneys across the country.
Prior to his nomination, Duncan had served for more than a decade as an Assistant United States Attorney, in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Beginning in 2011 and continuing until his appointment as United States Attorney, Duncan focused on the prosecution of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force cases, working with federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel to disrupt and dismantle complex drug trafficking and money laundering organizations operating in eastern Kentucky and elsewhere. From 2007 to 2013, Duncan also served as coordinator of the office’s Project Safe Neighborhoods Program. During his career as a federal prosecutor, Duncan handled a wide array of criminal and appellate matters, including violent crime, immigration offenses, public corruption, white-collar offenses, environmental crime, and child exploitation offenses. Duncan also served as the Professional Responsibility Officer for the office.
Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Duncan served as a law clerk to Senior United States District Court Judge Henry R. Wilhoit, Jr., in Ashland. Duncan grew up in Inez, in Martin County, along the Commonwealth’s border with West Virginia. Duncan graduated from Sheldon Clark High School, in 1996. He then graduated from Centre College in Danville, in 2000, with a B.A. in English and minor in History. Duncan received his J.D., in May 2003, from the University of Kentucky College of Law.
“I was raised in Kentucky, went to school in Kentucky, and have spend the majority of my legal career working with law enforcement and prosecuting cases in Kentucky,” said Duncan. “Having the opportunity to serve Kentucky, as the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, has been an enormous honor and privilege.”
Law enforcement officials offered the following comments about U.S. Attorney Duncan’s leadership of the Office.
“I have had the pleasure of working with USA Rob Duncan since my appointment as United States Marshal in February of 2018,” said Norman E. Arflack, United States Marshal for the Eastern District of Kentucky. “Rob’s dedication to law enforcement and to the citizens of the Eastern District of Kentucky is unparalleled. As a result of his leadership many of the most violent offenders in the Eastern District of Kentucky have been successfully prosecuted. His professionalism and leadership will be greatly missed. I wish him the best in his next undertaking whatever that may be.”
“Throughout my time serving in the FBI’s Louisville Field Office, the collaborative efforts of USA Duncan and his entire office have been nothing short of extraordinary. I want to personally thank USA Duncan for his steadfast commitment to justice and his unwavering partnership in effectively leading the Eastern District of Kentucky,” said James Robert Brown, Jr., Special Agent in Charge, FBI, Louisville Field Office.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure serving with Rob Duncan; as the United States Attorney for Kentucky’s Eastern District, he’s been a great partner to the Drug Enforcement Administration and the people of the Eastern District are safer for his efforts,” said Special Agent in Charge J. Todd Scott, head of DEA’s Louisville Division. “Rob’s more than just a professional colleague, he’s also become a personal friend.”
“I am grateful for the opportunity to have served,” said Duncan. “While leaving the Office is definitely bittersweet, I am excited to start a new chapter. I am confident that the Office will continue its outstanding work, enforcing the law and pursuing justice on behalf of the people of the Eastern District of Kentucky.”
The Eastern District of Kentucky encompasses the 67 easternmost counties in the Commonwealth, has a population of approximately 2.2 million, and includes the cities of Lexington, Covington, Frankfort, Ashland, Pikeville, Somerset, and London. The United States Attorney oversees a staff of approximately 110, including 49 Assistant U.S. Attorneys, and is responsible for prosecuting federal crimes and defending the United States in civil litigation, in the Eastern District of Kentucky.