According to the FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, gangs have increasingly become involved in white collar crimes including identity theft, credit card, bank and mortgage fraud and counterfeiting. Photo by AP.
December 16, 2013Sen. Jose Peralta, a member of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, has high hopes for his bill which he calls the "21st Century Gang Crime" bill in this upcoming session.
According to the FBI's National Gang Intelligence Center's 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment report, gangs have increasingly become involved in white collar crimes including identity theft, credit card, bank and mortgage fraud and counterfeiting. These crimes are not listed under New York's Enterprise Corruption Statute, which is used to prosecute gangs.
"Despite the increasing prominence of these crimes, the law used in New York to prosecute gangs and organized crime organizations does not include a wide variety of cyber and identity crimes," said Peralta, D-Jackson Heights. "That's not surprising considering that when the Enterprise Corruption Statute was passed in 1986, pagers were the cutting edge personal technology of the day and the identity theft law did not even exist."
The separation of the identity theft law and the enterprise corruption statute causes complications within the court system. A gang member being prosecuted for one of these white collar crimes must be tried in at least two different cases, one for the white collar crime and the other for enterprise corruption. The bill is meant to streamline the process and make prosecuting gangs for these white collar crimes more efficient by allowing them to be tried in one case.
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown worked with Peralta in drafting the bill.
"Those committing the crimes of identity theft are well-organized enterprises that inflict economic harm on a global scale, often leaving multiple victims and significant financial losses in their wake," Brown said. "My office has utilized the Enterprise Corruption Statute in the past to pursue justice against those committing these crimes and this legislative fix to strengthen the law will allow us to do that more efficiently."
According to Frank Sobrino, a spokesman for Peralta, the bill, if enacted, would expand the number of predicate felonies that prosecutors can use in making an enterprise corruption case against gang members.
"So while a prosecutor would still need to charge a defendant with three crimes identified in the Enterprise Corruption Statute in order to apply the statute and the stiffer penalties it carries, this bill would give prosecutors 13 additional — and increasingly common — offenses to choose from to make an Enterprise Corruption case," Sobrino said.
Enterprise corruption is a class B felony that can result in up to 25 years in jail, potentially in addition to other sentences.
The bill also protects defendants from the costs of double arraignment and bails.
The bill was passed in the Senate last session and was held up in the Assembly Codes Committee, where it still sits.
The Assembly sponsor, Assemblyman Michael Miller, D-Queens, said he looks for benefits to his district when considering legislation for sponsorship. He said for the "21st Century Gang Crime" bill he was motivated by the extra costs of trying the same person for two different crimes.
"Duplicate prosecution would be costing more money for the state," Miller said.
He also said the bill would help relieve pressure in the court system which he said is, "clogged enough as it is."
Miller said of the bill, "This is definitely one I'll push through."
Sobrino said Peralta is also optimistic about the bill becoming law this coming session. In the meantime Peralta is warning everyone to keep an eye out for unauthorized or suspicious transactions on their bank and credit card statements this holiday season, when these types of crimes become more frequent.