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White-collar crime on the rise among street gangs

A recent Associated Press (AP) article highlights a shift in money-making schemes for young street gangs — away from violent crime and drug sales in favor of white-collar fraud.

New York’s Van Dyke Money Gang used a Western Union money order scheme to net more than $1.5 million in 2015, the article says. The Neighborhood Crips of New Jersey created fake gift cards for retail outlets. And multiple South Florida gangs filed false tax returns under stolen identities in order to steal refunds.

The AP quoted Al Pasqual, a fraud consultant at Javelin Strategy and Research, who characterized the shift as a simple case of risk versus reward.

Pasqual posed the question, “Why would you spend time on the street slinging crack when you can get 10 years under federal minimums, when in reality you can just bone up on how to make six figures and when you get caught you’re doing six months?”

Pasqual said that while some gangs use the white-collar schemes as a side business to fund operations selling drugs and guns, others have adopted them as their primary means of making money.

The NYPD is adapting by coordinating personnel from the grand larceny division with those from the gang unit and other divisions.