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Ivan Safyan Abrams (born Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 28, 1947) is an American lawyer who served as a state and federal prosecutor as well as private practitioner before becoming a project manager for international development programs in eastern Europe and Central Asia. Abrams is currently the Country Director for the American Bar Association's Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) activities in the Central Asia republics of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

Abrams graduated from Pittsburgh's Taylor Allderdice High School in 1965. He went on to the University of Pittsburgh where he was a history major as well as the Photo Editor and Assistant Feature Editor of the school's tri-weekly newspaper, The Pitt News. In 1968, Ivan Abrams was awarded the first prize and two honorable mentions for photography in the national college journalism competition of the Pi Delta Epsilon Honorary Journalism Fraternity. He graduated from Pitt in 1969.

From 1972-1975, Abrams studied law at the Law School of the University of Pittsburgh. He was a member of the school's winning team in the 1975 Hon. Wallace Gourley Moot Court Competition held annually between the law schools of the University of Pittsburgh; Duquesne University; and West Virginia University. After law school, Abrams was appointed an Assistant District Attorney for Allegheny County, where he remained until 1979. He was a charter member of DA Bob Colville's move for greater professionalism in an office that had in the past been known for political cronyism and a roster of part-time prosecutors. As one of the County's first full-time prosecutors, Abrams distinguished himself as a part of the Crimes Against Persons squad; as a highly-motivated, well-trained, and thoroughly prepared unit, this group of young lawyers set new standards with their professional approach to their work. In addition to Abrams, members of the squad included Tom Corbett, now (2011) governor of Pennsylvania) and Linda Kelly, now (2011) Attorney General of Pennsylvania.

Abrams left the DA's office in mid-1979, and spent the next four years in private practice in Pittsburgh. In September, 1983, he joined the United States Department of Justice and served as an Assistant US Attorney (in Fresno, California from 1983-1986, and in Phoenix, Arizona, from 1989-1991) as well as a Trial Attorney with the US Department of Justice Criminal Division from 1986-1989. Abrams' cases included public corruption and federal program fraud; racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO); Continuing Criminal Enterprise (CCE); and major drug trafficking matters. During his time at the Criminal Division of USDOJ, Abrams was the head of a multi-district, multi-agency task group that targeted producers and distributors of adult and child obscenity for investigation and prosecution due to their involvement with organized crime groups across the United States. He received commendations from both the Attorney General of the United States and from the FBI for this work.

After leaving federal service in 1991, Ivan Abrams opened a small law office in Tucson, Arizona, and soon after added an office in Douglas, Arizona. In 1995, he moved the Douglas portion of his practice to Bisbee, the same year in which he earned a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in International Trade Law from the highly-regarded program at the University of Arizona inaugurated by Professor Boris Kozolchyk and directed by Professor David Gantz. Abrams private practice was focused on litigation in state and federal courts, including complex criminal and civil cases. He is especially well-known as having sued multiple disoceses of the Roman Catholic Church for civil RICO, alleging on behalf of a group of disgruntled priests and parishoners that the Church had obstructed justice by failing to turn over pedophile clergy to civilian law enforcement, and by sequestering records and files which proved that the suspect clergy were guilty, as well as defrauding believers through continuing to take contributions from them earmarked for payment of salaries to priests who had been placed in various churches to hide them after their commission of sexual offenses. Though the Church vigorously attacked Abrams in court, the case settled in 2004 in favor of the plantiffs with its RICO counts intact and unchanged; the exact terms of the settlement remain sealed.

After 15 years of litigation conducted across the United States, Ivan Abrams was pleased to be able to conclude his private practice in January, 2006, and join ABA-ROLI. He was first assigned as a Senior Legal Advisor to the Regional Criminal Justice Initiative in Bulgaria, a project sponsored by then-US Ambassador John Beyrle. From January, 2006, until May, 2007, Abrams and his US DOJ partners, retired Maine State Trooper Don Lizotte and retired FBI Special Agent Joe Davidson designed and implemented a series of training courses for Bulgaria's investigators, prosecutors, and judges entitled "The Enterprise Theory of Organized Crime". This course provided Bulgaria's law enforcement and judicial professionals with the information and techniques they needed to combat internal and international organized crime, to adopt best international practices for investigation and evidence gathering, and to operate the courts in an unbiased and fully professional manner.

As with nearly all programs of international assistance, funding for the organized crime training in Bulgaria was limited. When it was exhausted in May, 2007, ABA ROLI asked Abrams to work in Central Asia to advise and manage its USAID and US State Department funded programs that trained lawyers and human rights defenders from former Soviet republics in modern techniques of advocacy, court management, and the prevention of torture and human rights abuse. He was soon named as ABA's Country Director for Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, spending approximately half of his time in each of the republics, until January, 2009.

Then, Ivan Abrams was engaged by Development Alternatives, Incorporated, a Bethesda, Maryland contractor, to work with its USAID-funded Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs Support Project (KMFAS). Located in that new nation's capital of Pristina, KMFAS sought to impart the basic techniques of diplomacy as well as assisting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop professional management. After serving two 6-month stints as Acting Chief of Party (COP) for the project, Abrams was named permanent COP in March, 2010, and served in that capacity until the project ended in June, 2011.

Abrams is perhaps best known for his development, together with New Hampshire attorney and economist Robert E. McDaniel of a new and highly effective training program for economic diplomacy. Ideally suited for emerging nations with limited financial resources, but with an eager potential workforce, the Abrams and McDaniel program trains a nation's diplomats to become part-time trade representatives in their postings abroad. After the initial and intensive training, the diplomats learn to proactively recognize and then capture business and investment opportunities; begin negotiations before referring the opportunity to private businesses and investors in their home country; attend trade shows and make contacts; and to market their country's advantages world-wide. After operating for less than a year in Kosovo's missions abroad, this innovative methodology generated over 200 million Euro in potential new business and investment for the newly-independent republic. Abrams and McDaniel now offer the program in economic diplomacy to nations throughout the world, through their Center for Economic Diplomacy headquartered in Merideth, New Hampshire.

Ivan Abrams has now returned to Central Asia on behalf of ABA ROLI, again as Country Director for Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. He manages ex pat and national staff, and also in conjunction with ABA ROLI's DC headquarters designs new projects to be submitted to funders for consideration.

In addition to his professional work as a lawyer--Abrams is a member of the Bars of Arizona and California--and in international development, Ivan Abrams is a published photographer whose work has appeared in various publications of the United Nations; the Asia Development Bank; travel guidebooks; and monthly publications in the United States and Europe. Abrams also served in the US Navy Reserve as a Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. He is married to the former Terry Wagner, and has two sons by a first marriage: Eric, a law student, and Andy, a physician. When not working abroad, Ivan Abrams and his wife Terry live in Tucson, Arizona.

References



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