Criminal Justice

More gang members embrace white-collar crime

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credit cards

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Some street gangs are finding white-collar crime can be lucrative.

In a “national trend,” gangs are committing crimes such as check fraud and identity theft, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) reports in a story noted by the newspaper’s Law Blog. Such offenses have a bigger payoff, are more difficult to detect, and are subject to lower prison sentences than more traditional gang crimes.

Some gang members in New York are carrying re-encoded credit cards using stolen data. Gang members prosecuted in Brooklyn were accused of defrauding banks by creating fake checks, depositing them and withdrawing the money before the forgery was discovered. In California, gang members were accused of stealing identity information to file fraudulent tax returns and to commit other financial crimes.

New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton wrote about the trend in a December op-ed for the New York Daily News. “To an astonishing degree,” he wrote, “crew members are learning the skills of credit card fraud—stealing with computers, embossing machines, and stacks of blank cards instead of resorting to robbery and burglary. Yet despite their migration to white-collar crime, they show no signs of becoming less violent.”

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