Raj Parekh, ESIA BA ’03, broke a barrier more than two centuries old when he was appointed Acting US Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia.
This past January, Raj Parekh, ESIA BA ’03, broke a barrier more than two centuries old when he was appointed Acting U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia, becoming the first person of color in the district’s 232-year history to serve as its chief federal prosecutor. In this role, Parekh supervises the prosecution of all federal crimes and the litigation of all civil matters in which the United States has an interest. He leads a staff of over 300 federal prosecutors, civil litigators and support personnel in a district that consists of more than 19,000 square miles and serves over six million residents.
Parekh’s journey began in New York as a first-generation American after his parents emigrated from India. His father worked in the textile sales industry for four decades, before losing his eyesight. His mother held two jobs at one point to financially support and care for their family. “My parents made countless sacrifices to make ends meet,” Parekh notes. “Through their compassion, tireless work ethic, and selfless dedication to our family, I learned the importance of always giving back and helping others.”
At GW, Parekh distinguished himself in and out of the classroom, graduating with honors in two majors, economics and international affairs. He served in numerous leadership roles, including as a Student Association senator-at-large during his junior year, editor-in-chief of the Indian Students’ Association Newsletter, and as the emcee of the Indian Students’ Association Diwali and Holi programs, which are among the most widely attended cultural events on campus.
Parekh’s commitment to equity and inclusion led him to become a founding member of the GWUnited Coalition, which was created to advance a culturally diverse and active Student Association. “GWUnited allowed us to strongly advocate on behalf of student organizations, especially diverse groups, to ensure they had an equally powerful voice on campus and received the funding they needed for their cultural events and other initiatives,” Parekh says.
The September 11, 2001 attacks – which unfolded in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia at the Pentagon, within close proximity to GW’s campus during Parekh’s junior year – had a profound impact on his decision to enter public service. Parekh recalls that “following the horror and tragedy of 9/11, the GW community came together to pay tribute to the victims and support each other.” Parekh credits his peers for uniting the campus in the wake of the attacks, which forever changed the country and their college experience. “My GW classmates are among the most talented, dedicated, and compassionate individuals I have ever met. They inspired me and many others to give back and serve our communities.”
After college, Parekh earned his Juris Doctor with honors from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2006, along with a certificate in Business and Public Policy from The Wharton School. He then served in a number of prominent legal positions, including as a litigation associate at the law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, as assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency, as counsel to IBM, and as a federal prosecutor in multiple positions at the U.S. Department of Justice, including as a counterterrorism prosecutor.
Parekh has tried numerous jury trials to verdict and has prosecuted a wide variety of federal offenses, including national security, white-collar, narcotics, and violent crimes. Among many other significant matters that he has handled, in U.S. v. Khweis, Parekh secured the 2017 conviction of the first individual to face a jury trial in the United States after having joined the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in ISIS territory. Parekh traveled with the FBI to Iraq in 2016 to investigate the case, and following the noteworthy trial, he received a coveted Justice Department award for superior performance.
Parekh has received several other awards and recognitions for his work, including the Anti-Defamation League SHIELD award for U.S. v. Spain, which led to the 2018 conviction of an ISIS supporter who planned to conduct terrorism attacks on targets in Virginia. Parekh received awards from the FBI following the 2019 jury trial conviction of two executives who supplied falsely-labeled, out-of-warranty body armor to U.S. personnel serving overseas, and following the 2020 conviction of a Dark Web vendor and pharmacist who conspired to use explosives to firebomb and destroy a competitor pharmacy.
Most recently last fall, Parekh helped indict U.S. v. Kotey and Elsheikh, a significant international terrorism case that involves two alleged ISIS militants who are currently facing charges relating to a hostage-taking scheme that resulted in the deaths of American, British, and Japanese nationals in Syria.
Parekh, also a devoted father, credits his wife – who has achieved her own success at the Federal Reserve Board – for supporting him throughout his entire career. “She is my rock and has been with me every step of the way. My career journey would not have been possible without her.”
As Acting U.S. Attorney, Parekh says that he is humbled and deeply honored to lead the extraordinary women and men of his office, and that he is firmly committed to “doing the right thing at all times, pursuing equal justice for all, safeguarding the rule of law, upholding victims’ rights, and ensuring the safety of our community members.”