Dallas’ likely new top federal prosecutor brings with her a career battling cybercrime.
That happens to be one of the fastest-growing and most damaging crimes in Texas and across the nation. Which is why those in the local criminal justice community think Erin Nealy Cox is a good pick to lead the office.
Cox, a cybersecurity expert and former federal prosecutor in Dallas, was nominated by President Donald Trump to be U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas — an area that covers 7 million people in 100 counties in northern and western Texas.
Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz recommended her, and the Senate is expected to confirm her nomination. If so, she will become North Texas’ top federal law enforcement officer.
Cox worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in Dallas from 1999 to 2008, specializing in cybercrime. She also served a 19-month stint during that time in Washington D.C. as chief of staff for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy where she worked on policy and legislative initiatives.
Cox left the U.S. attorney’s office in 2008 to work for Stroz Friedberg, a global risk management and cybersecurity consulting firm where she established and led the company’s Dallas office. Most recently, she was in charge of investigating intrusions and data breaches for the company.
She declined to comment for this story.
Erin Nealy Cox
Chad Pinson, executive managing director of Stroz Friedberg’s Dallas office and head of the central region, worked with Cox from 2012 until she left the company last year.
“I think that she is uniquely positioned to be one of our best U.S. attorneys,” he said.
Pinson said Cox’s strengths include team building, leadership and management. She started the firm’s Dallas office and “built something really strong,” he said.
“Erin’s experience as one of the foremost cybersecurity experts in the country will be invaluable as she prosecutes wrongdoers,” he said.
Pinson said cybercriminals are showing increased sophistication that poses a threat to critical infrastructure such as light, power and water systems.
“I think it’s fantastic that she is primed to address these crimes,” he said.
Paul Coggins knew Cox well when he was the U.S. attorney in Dallas.
“She was one of my best hires,” he said.
Coggins said he often hired prosecutors from the Dallas County DA’s office because of their trial experience. But Cox was a different type of recruit, he said.
“I liked to go out to the law firms and pick out bright young lawyers who are smart ambitious and aggressive,” he said. “Erin came out of that mold.”
Coggins said Cox was “instrumental” in preparing the office to tackle cybercrime, which he called the “wave of the future.”
“They can steal a lot more with computers than they can with guns,” he said.
Cox, who earned her law degree at Southern Methodist University, has varied experiences in the public and private sectors and is respected in Washington D.C., he said. Coggins said she is an excellent team player who is smart, organized and connected to the community.
“I think she’ll be an excellent ambassador,” he said.
Richard Roper, another former U.S. attorney in Dallas, called Cox a “brilliant lawyer” who is “tough but fair.”
He said she helped prosecute some of the office’s first cybercrime cases.
One of them involved a pharmacist who was sentenced in 2005 to 20 years in prison for running an online pill mill. Clayton H. Fuchs was among several people convicted in the case.
Cox and her fellow prosecutor said Fuchs led a ring of doctors and pharmacists who prescribed and shipped hydrocodone and other potent drugs to people without examining them or scanning their medical records. It was the first time a pharmacist was convicted under the federal drug kingpin law.
Cox also prosecuted Tuan “Andy” Nguyen for leading a large staged accident ring that defrauded insurance companies out of more than $1 million. Nguyen pleaded guilty in that high-profile case and was sentenced in 2010 to eight years in prison.
While working for the U.S. attorney’s office, Cox served as the computer hacking and intellectual property coordinator for the Northern District of Texas. She also served on a working group that prosecuted complex cybercrime cases across the U.S.
Cruz released a statement saying Cox will be a “stellar” U.S. attorney.
“She is smart, principled and dedicated to just enforcement of the law,” he said.
Cox is married to Dallas lawyer Trey Cox. If confirmed, she will replace John Parker, a highly-respected, career federal prosecutor who has been filling in as interim U.S. attorney.
Parker is known to be a straight-shooter who attends high-profile trials in his district. He made cracking down on opioid dealers a priority during his nearly three years in the top job.
“I think the world of John,” said Coggins, who hired him. “I think he’s done a really good job. I couldn’t be prouder.”