Briefing Room
Jessica Kim


Alumna to bring passion for white-collar crime to the classroom this spring

December 20, 2017 | Alumni

As head of cybercrimes for the Columbus office, Jessica Kim ’11, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, witnesses firsthand how technology is rapidly altering the way crimes are investigated and prosecuted. Cyberstalking, for one, is a recently amended federal crime that her department—the white collar crimes section of the criminal division—is employing more and more. She hopes to explore the nuances and complexities of white-collar crime in her upcoming course at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law this spring.

“Cyberstalking is being charged with increased frequency because of defendants’ use of the internet and other technologies to engage in crime,” Kim said. “The fraud landscape has also changed because of the evolution of cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin. Cryptocurrency networks, which attract many users because of their decentralized exchange and generally anonymized systems, for the same reason, potentially enable criminals to evade taxes and launder money.   Technology has changed everything about our prosecutions, from how we initially guide our investigations to how we ultimately decide what charges to bring.”

The popularity of social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, as well as messaging services like WhatsApp Messenger, also present significant challenges to investigating crimes, she said. Platforms like WhatsApp Messenger use end-to-end encryption to ensure that the senders and receivers are the sole parties with access to a message, complicating how law enforcement can retrieve old correspondence between users.

“Criminals regularly use WhatsApp Messenger to communicate and further their illicit activities because they know that the service’s inherent end-to-end encryption will cover their tracks,” Kim said. “But when law enforcement is unable to obtain potential evidence because it is disguised, concealed, or destroyed, that is problematic for us.”

Kim has prosecuted several high-profile cases throughout her career, including the creators of the sports beverage OXYwater, who were convicted by a federal jury in March 2015 of wire fraud, money laundering, and tax fraud after misappropriating millions of investors’ dollars. Several notable witnesses testified in the trial, including singer/songwriter Ne-Yo and former Super Bowl champion Greg Jennings. Kim has also been involved in the prosecution of Rolls-Royce plc, after authorities uncovered a decades-long global bribery scheme in which the company paid foreign officials upwards of $35 million in exchange for government contracts. Rolls-Royce agreed to pay the United States $170 million in January 2017. She is currently prosecuting former Ohio State Highway Patrol lieutenant William Elschlager, who is accused of cyberstalking a victim by unlawfully placing a GPS tracking device on her vehicle without her knowledge.

When Kim returns to her alma mater this spring, her course on white collar crime will examine fraud—including wire and mail fraud, computer and internet fraud, tax evasion and securities fraud—bribery and public corruption, money laundering, and perjury and obstruction of justice. Her students will study landmark players in white-collar crime like the Enron Corporation, Bernard Madoff, and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who was convicted in 2014 of public corruption, which was later vacated by the United States Supreme Court. A different practitioner versed in white-collar crime and defense will visit class each week, including other prosecutors, public defenders, defense attorneys, and agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.

“Moritz does a tremendous job of bringing in practitioners to teach courses, which, as a student, I found to be not only interesting but very valuable,” Kim said. “Law school teaches you the substance of the law and how to think like a lawyer, but not really how to practice as a lawyer. In addition to providing the legal substance of white collar crimes, I want to provide the practical aspect of how to practice white collar criminal law. That is how I am hoping to structure the course.”

As a student at Moritz, Kim’s own experience with her former adjunct professors—Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit—ultimately shaped her career as an Assistant United States Attorney. Chief Judge Sargus, a former United States Attorney, offered Kim a clerkship the year following graduation. The experience introduced her to the allure of practicing law in federal court and the distinct honor that serving as an Assistant United States Attorney affords.

“The opportunity to do meaningful work—the indescribable feeling of doing something positive for society and that, at least in a small way, we can make a difference—is the best part of the job,” Kim said. “As the first-generation daughter of immigrants, there is no greater honor than representing the United States. And that is not a responsibility my colleagues and I take lightly—perhaps that is why there is such a strong camaraderie shared amongst the department. Not many people have the privilege of being able to say that their job is simple: to do the right thing.”