By Adrianna C. Rodriguez
Mobsters, murders, tax evasion and health care fraud, it may read like the back cover of a crime novel, but it’s just another day at the office for Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay G. Trezevant (JD 87).
“It’s as if every day I’m pushed from an airplane with yards of silk and thread and I have to fashion a parachute before I hit the ground,” said Trezevant of his work.
Trezevant, who works in the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, handles cases involving organized crime and economic crimes, such as health care fraud, securities fraud, tax fraud, and mail and wire fraud.
“Every attorney in this office is very, very bright and very, very dedicated,” Trezevant said. “We have the greatest jobs in the world. We get to wake up every day and throw ourselves into work we are very, very interested in, the kind of work that, if you were independently wealthy, you would do anyway just because it is that interesting.”
In his 12 years with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Trezevant, a quadriplegic since high school, has earned a reputation as one of the hardest-working attorneys in the state, prosecuting a slew of criminals from corporate executives to mafia bosses.
“Jay is a tough, hard-hitting courtroom advocate,” said William F. Jung, Trezevant’s friend and colleague of more than 15 years. “He strikes hard blows but not foul ones. He is known for his intense preparation. He gives no quarter in the courtroom and expects none in return.”
Being an assistant U.S. attorney is a 24/7 job for Trezevant, but he hardly sees it as work. “Every day I wake up and think, ‘I’m excited to do what I’m doing,’ ” he said.
Among the highest profile cases Trezevant has prosecuted was that of the infamous New Yorkbased Gambino crime family of La Cosa Nostra, which was led, at times, by capo Ronald Trucchio, also known as “Ronnie One Arm.”
In 2004, after years of investigations, Trezevant’s office secured an indictment against multiple members of the Gambino crime family crew, which had attempted to expand its reach to the Tampa area, extorting local valet parking businesses in the 1980s and 1990s.
A case charging John A. Gotti, also known as “Junior,” is one of the last in the cluster of cases stemming from the initial 2004 indictment. Trial in the case is currently scheduled to begin this year on Sept. 14. Trezevant will travel to Manhattan to try the case in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. A companion case brought by Trezevant charging additional Gambino crime family associates has recently been transferred for trial from the Tampa area to the Eastern District of New York. That case is scheduled for trial in the summer.
All other Gambino crime family members and associates indicted in the cases have either pled guilty or been convicted at trial. Trucchio received a life sentence after being convicted at trial and is currently serving his sentence in a federal prison facility.
In another high profile case, Trezevant civilly prosecuted a whistleblower action on behalf of the United States against Vencor Inc., a large public company that operated nursing homes and acute carehospitals across the country. That case resulted in a $104.5 million settlement in favor of the United States. Trezevant, well-known for his intense and thorough preparation, spent 18 months combing through many thousands of pages of documentation before filing the suit on behalf of the government. Although, he points out, “When dealing with complex health care fraud issues, 18 months can go by in a flash.”
“Jay is known for carefully pruning potential defendants, so only the true ‘bad guys’ face his professional energy,” Jung said. “Jay’s paramount concern, which can be seen in his opening and closing statements, is that the truth speaks through his presentation. I have never seen Jay lose a case, and it is his preparation and high ethical standards that cause this success.”
In speaking about past cases, Trezevant’s memory is impeccable, almost photographic, effortlessly reciting addresses of individuals whose assets were frozen due to Medicare fraud, or the spelling of defendants’, attorneys’ and investigators’ names from cases he has prosecuted.
“The most important case to any prosecutor is the case he or she is working on in the moment,” he said.
“As an assistant U.S. attorney, you attempt to right a wrong, but you can never completely achieve justice because placing a murderer in prison doesn’t restore life to the person who was killed and seizing what remains of stolen money and assets doesn’t completely restore the victim organization,” Trezevant said.
Trezevant joined the Tampa U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1997 with the “good fortune of timing” on his side. He was initially hired and assigned to handle whistleblower actions in health care matters and cases just after the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted, the Department of Justice was beginning to investigate and prosecute actions under HIPAA, and Florida’s elderly population was growing.
Despite being enthralled with his job, the avid Gator fan frequently presents lectures and leads workshops on legal issues. It’s his way of giving back to the profession. Trezevant also finds time to volunteer in his community. He is chair of the Hillsborough County Arts Council and serves on the board of the ChairScholars Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance to severely disabled students across the country so that they can attend great universities and reach their maximum potential. For Trezevant it is a cause close to his heart.
His own story has been shaped by a diving accident during his junior year of high school that left him a quadriplegic. He was fortunate to have had a supportive family and network of close friends that helped him deal with the obstacles of his disability while working to reach his goals. Through ChairScholars, Trezevant hopes to do the same for other students facing similar obstacles.
“Every individual has to deal with his or her own challenges,” Trezevant said. “Every individual faces obstacles. I don’t know that my challenges are any more significant than anyone else’s. I have dealt with mine for so long that it has become somewhat second nature in my thinking. My approach is to simply move forward, do what I’m doing, and then figure out how to deal with any obstacles as they appear,” he said.
During his time at UF, Trezevant’s goal was to work as an attorney, though he first studied accounting realizing that the knowledge would be valuable to his legal career. In a decade, Trezevant earned four degrees from UF: bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting, a law degree and a Master of Laws in taxation.
While he had always planned on going into law, he never thought he would become a prosecutor. After several years working of counsel in Tampa to a Jacksonville tax law firm, he decided to take a 180-degree turn with his career, abandoning his original vision of a career in a big law firm handling sophisticated tax transactions for a job at the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office as a trial lawyer. Trezevant never looked back.
“The beauty of law is that you can do so many things,” Trezevant said. “From the outset I thought I would work in the area of tax, transactional law or business-related law. It never occurred to me for a second that I would be a trial attorney.”
“Working in the State Attorney’s Office was really just a beginning, no different than furthering my education,” he said. A person who readily acknowledges enjoying interpersonal communication, Trezevant began his work in the 13th Judicial Circuit in the early 1990s prosecuting low-level criminal conduct and misdemeanors such as DUI, petty theft, battery and assault cases. He found the work to be unusual and unexpected with something new each day as he worked his way up to prosecuting felonies, such as armed robbery and homicide.
“The court room worked very naturally for me so I enjoyed it,” said Trezevant of the four years he spent working at the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. It was there that Trezevant began building a reputation based on meticulous preparation and masterful courtroom manner.
“Most lawyers that have worked with Jay would tell you the same thing — he has the rare combination of dry wit and a passion to prepare. That makes him a force in the courtroom,” said Paul M. Sisco, who has known Trezevant for 16 years and worked with him in the state prosecutor’s office. “He has been both my colleague and my adversary in cases over the years, but he has never been my enemy.”
Trezevant enjoys his work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for much the same reason he enjoyed his work years ago in the State Attorney’s Office: “There is always something new and challenging.” He is dedicated to his work at the U.S. Attorney’s Office and can’t see leaving anytime soon.
“In my mind, there are four things that Jay holds in the highest regard: his wife, his friends, a wellprepared case, and an effective Gator game plan — maybe not always in that order,” said Sisco.[Editor’s Note: The views reflected in this story are solely that of Mr. Trezevant and do not reflect the point of view of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.]