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How white-collar crime may be the new form of gang warfare

According to a recent article, the new turf of street gangs may not be neighborhood brawls, but white-collar crimes.

In one example, a New Jersey gang used a machine to make fake gift cards for a variety of stores, including supermarkets, pharmacies and stores. In a New York example, a gang perpetrated a $1.5 million money order scheme with Western Union. 

Compared to violent criminal offenses such as robberies or drug crimes, white-collar criminal activities can net a much greater financial payback and result in much lighter penalties and shorter sentences in the event of an arrest and conviction. Pursuant to New Jersey state law, for example, credit card fraud can be either a felony or misdemeanor.

Perhaps for that reason, law enforcement officials are reporting a rise in gangs running schemes such as credit card fraud or identity theft. The schemes can involve a surprisingly extensive network, such as bank account owners recruited to cash fake checks, employees recruited to pass along credit card information, and others. 

If you have been accused of a white-collar crime, it is important to consult with an attorney to understand your options. It may be possible to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor, depending on the context. Crimes like taking or using a credit card without consent may result in up to 18 months of imprisonment, as well as fines, but there may be negotiating leeway with prosecutors. 

Source: Associated Press, “Street gangs migrate from drugs to white-collar crimes,” Colleen Long, Dec. 21, 2015

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