U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer, who served almost seven years in the longest tenure for South Florida’s top law enforcement official, said Wednesday that he will be stepping down on March 3.
Ferrer, who will be replaced temporarily by his first assistant, career prosecutor Ben Greenberg, announced his resignation so he can begin considering other opportunities in the legal community while the newly elected president, Donald Trump, decides his permanent successor.
Ferrer, the son of Cuban immigrants who rose to the top of his class at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School and the University of Miami before obtaining his law degree from the University of Pennsylvania, told the Miami Herald that it has been a “sad day, but it was time.”
Ferrer, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in April 2010, oversaw an office with nearly 250 lawyers that stretches from Key West to Fort Pierce. It has been recognized for decades as one of the busiest and most colorful districts for federal criminal prosecutions in the country.
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Ferrer’s tenure was marked by prosecutions of public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft, terrorism, sex trafficking, synthetic drugs and violent gangs, but he also developed close ties with law enforcement and community groups in South Florida in an effort to prevent crime and promote education.
“There has been no greater honor than to serve and protect the same community that opened its arms to my parents when they immigrated to this country,” Ferrer, 50, said in a statement released Wednesday, after informing the Southern District of Florida’s office of his resignation.
“For almost seven years, I have been blessed to work alongside the remarkable men and women in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, community leaders, and our federal, state and local law enforcement partners who strive tirelessly to combat crime and promote a safer, stronger and more united district,” he said. “I am incredibly proud of all that we have been able to accomplish together, in and out of the courtroom, including building meaningful bonds of trust with the diverse community we serve.”
Before Ferrer took over as U.S. attorney in the Southern District of Florida, the lifelong Democrat worked as a Miami-Dade County attorney, a federal prosecutor and a senior advisor to the late Attorney General Janet Reno and her one-time deputy, Eric Holder, who later served as attorney general in the Obama administration.
Former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, who served in the Miami office during the Clinton administration, was chairman of South Florida’s Judicial Nominating Commission when it recommended Ferrer for the top prosecutor’s job. “He has devoted his life to public service,” Coffey said.
Ferrer’s departure was expected in the aftermath of Trump’s election as president in November. While Trump’s Justice Department informed the 93 U.S. attorney’s offices around the country that the top prosecutors in each office could stay on until they are replaced, many have already started making career plans to move on, including Ferrer.
In South Florida, a handful of former federal prosecutors with Republican connections are now considering a bid for Ferrer’s position as U.S. attorney, which will be recommended by Florida’s two U.S. senators and nominated by President Trump.
Among the candidates eyeing the U.S. attorney’s post in South Florida: Roy Altman, John Couriel, Daniel Fridman and Jon Sale — all former federal prosecutors. Carlos Castillo, a former federal prosecutor who works as general counsel to Florida International University, is another candidate who has recently surfaced. Of those, Sale has the only link to Trump’s inner circle through his close friendship with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a confidant of the president.
Whether other lawyers join them to pursue the position, one thing is certain: Replacing the U.S. attorney in South Florida and in the other districts around the country will take months.