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Feds allege gangs turning to white collar crimes

Gang activity is said to be on the rise in California and across the country, with estimates that upwards of one and a half million people are gang members. That figure is up some 40 percent from just two years ago, although some of the increase is likely due to more detailed reporting techniques by authorities. The northeast and southwest sections of the U.S. are cited as areas experiencing the greatest growth. It is also claimed that gangs have become more entrepreneurial, branching out to white collar crimes, such as mortgage fraud, bank fraud and selling pirated video games.

Authorities claim that gangs are working with transnational groups focused on drug trafficking to enable the gangs to expand into other activities, such as counterfeiting and gun sales. The nature of these accusations involves allegations of federal criminal conduct, as the offenses presumably involve communication and alleged illegal activity across state lines and internationally. In Southern California, authorities accused 99 individuals of being members of the Armenian Power gang with ties to organized crime in Armenia, Russia and the nation of Georgia. Those accused were recently arrested. All were charged with kidnapping, extortion and bank fraud, as well as drug trafficking.

When an arrest of multiple defendants is announced, as with the 99 individuals reportedly charged in Southern California, it is crucial to remember that each accused person is entitled to the same legal protections applicable to all Americans accused of a crime. There is often a tendency to "convict" someone in the court of public opinion based solely on what is published in the media. However, the allegations must be presented against each person individually, and judgment should be withheld until someone is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. Even if a federal investigation is complex and spans a significant period of time, not everyone accused of such crimes is guilty. In any case, federal charges are extremely serious, and to mount the strongest defense possible, California residents need to be fully aware of their rights.

Source: Associated Press, "Feds: gang memberships up as crime alliances grow," Pete Yost, Oct. 21, 2011

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