Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Assistant U.S. Attorney, Economic Crimes Unit
Favorite Professor: Jose Sanchez, who taught political science
Favorite Adelphi experience: A summer internship in Washington, D.C., in the office of U.S. Representative Ron Dellums, Democratic congressman from Oakland, California.
Advice to Adelphi students: “Find a mentor, who can point you in the right direction and make sure you take advantage of the right opportunities.”
At an early age, Carmen M. Ortiz ’78 was drawn to the showmanship of the courtroom. “I loved performing, but I knew I didn’t quite have the talent to be on stage,” she says.
“I still enjoy presenting a case, having to be on my toes, ready to shoot from the hip,” she says, even though these days many of her cases are won in the investigative phase.
An Assistant U.S. Attorney who specializes in white collar crimes, Ms. Ortiz’s investigations often span a year or longer. At the end of all that work, her office is frequently rewarded with a guilty plea, which avoids the uncertainty of trial. It’s no surprise that her case file often holds 20-25 pending cases.
Among her cases are all types of fraud claims, tax evasion, and corporate embezzlement, as well as brokerage, real estate and investment scams. She has worked on notable cases, including a $16 million timeshare appraisal fraud scheme, which defrauded over 38,000 victims. Her investigation included the indictment of 11 people in multiple states.
Prior to joining the U.S. Attorney’s office in 1997, Ms. Ortiz leant her investigative and legal expertise to several high-profile projects. From 1988 to 1991, she was at the Center for Criminal Justice at Harvard Law School. While there, she participated in the State Department’s USAID program to install judicial reforms and oral courtroom procedures in the Guatemalan legal system. It was a three year project, and she spent several months in Guatemala, instructing and coaching lawyers and judges. She recalls the time vividly, “It was very rewarding, but also a daunting challenge.” The program was dissolved in 1994 due to increasing resistance from the Arévalo government.
In 1990, Ms. Ortiz joined her Harvard colleague Philip Heymann on a commission charged by then Commissioner of the National Football League Paul Tagliabue to investigate allegations of sexual harassment filed by a Boston sports reporter against players on the New England Patriots. The incident received national attention, and is recognized as a milestone in the evolution of female reporters gaining access to interview athletes in locker rooms and to cover the NFL.
In 1992, Ms. Ortiz was a member of the six-person team appointed by the U.S. Senate to investigate the “October Surprise.” Working with Special Counsel Reid Weingarten, Ms. Ortiz investigated claims that the 1980 Reagan/Bush Campaign had conducted improper dealings with Iranian representatives to delay the release of American hostages and undermine President Carter’s re-election. The investigation is often cited in discussions of campaign conduct and regulations.
From 1983 to 1988 and 1991 to 1995, Ms. Ortiz worked in the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. She served as a prosecutor for violent crime offenses, and later returned as the director of district courts, where she trained and supervised assistant district attorneys in the county’s 14 courts.
The New York City native chose Adelphi because it was “close to home” and offered her a merit scholarship. Although she knew that law school was her ultimate goal, she pursued a business degree. “It just seemed more practical,” she says, “I knew I could do a lot with it.”
She spent the summer before her senior year in Washington D.C., interning for Congressman Ron Dellums (D. California). The atmosphere and politics of Washington proved engaging, and when she applied to law school that year, the district’s law schools were her top choice. She received her J.D. from the National Law Center at George Washington University in 1981.
Ms. Ortiz is a board member of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She lives in Milton, Massachusetts with her two daughters, Jacki and Ali, and enjoys spending her time reading, working out, and traveling.
She will address the Class of 2012 in Adelphi University’s 116th Commencement ceremony.
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