• White Collar Gang Crimes

    Author : February 23, 2017

    The Wall Street Journal recently had an article chronicling a new trend amongst gangs – white-collar crimes. These crimes have grown in prevalence, in large part because white-collar crimes typically carry a lower prison sentence and fines than violent or drug-based crimes. Recently, one gang member was indicted for stealing over $90,000 in counterfeit checks – the third case involving white collar crime and gangs brought by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office just within the last six months. In 2015, the Van Dyke Money Gang stole more than $1.5 million under a Western Union money order scheme, while a group of Crips in New Jersey made fake gift cards for super markets. These crimes are easier to pull off, more lucrative, and come with shorter sentences. To give you an idea of how quickly these crimes have proliferated, in 2001, grand larceny made up 28 percent of all crimes in New York City. Last year, it grew to 40 percent.

    The upside to this is that there are typically fewer turf wars between gangs, but a more focused and united war against government and law enforcement. Instead of drive-by shootings on the street for a corner to deal drugs, a mailman was kill in Florida over a key for post office boxes. That’s not to say that the gangs have completely done away with violence – the same Crips in New Jersey who profited off fake tax return were also indicted with murder and attempted murder in separate, unrelated incidents.

    The crimes committed here are also more insidious and difficult to track – many of the perpetrators are millennials, raised in the age of technology, well-versed in how to hack into accounts and hide financial crimes. As a result, law enforcement has had to evolve in the way they handle larceny. Now the grand larceny divisions bring in detectives from the gang units to compare notes and track these groups together. The gang members have also started to use social media to pull of their heists. One member of a Brooklyn gang called Bosses in Businesses began by commenting on strangers’ photos or sending them private messages to invite them to go into business together. He would pay these strangers to open bank accounts, wherein the gang would deposit fraudulent checks and immediately withdraw money from ATM’s. You can imagine how difficult it can be to track and monitor this kind of crime, which can happen anywhere, almost anonymously. Another difficulty with this crime is how often it is underreported. Most victims of credit card or identity theft do not report it to the police because they are satisfied when their bank recompenses their losses.

    Prosecutors and law enforcement have changed tack, focusing on the involvement in these white collar crimes after it became clear that the massive funds from these actions are bankrolling their more violent crimes, buy purchasing guns, drugs and bribes. While many white collar criminals receive lighter sentences, if the defendant is also accused and convicted of violence associated with it, or has stolen a huge amount of money, the sentences can be for several years. The reason many sentences are lighter is because of the difficult in proving white collar crimes, particularly if done using the internet and other digital technology, or the insulation built into gangs which protect leaders. But, there is never any guarantee that a white collar criminal will get an easy stint in some minimum security resort, particularly if they have a rather long rap sheet preceding them.

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