NEW YORK (AP) -- U.S. law enforcement officials say they see increasingly more street gangs relying on white collar crimes like identity theft and credit card fraud rather than the robberies and drug running that they're usually associated with.
This year, more than three dozen suspected gang members have been indicted in separate cases involving white collar crime around the country.
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton wrote in an editorial in the city's Daily News last week that white-collar crime was being committed by gang members "to an astonishing degree."
"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?" said Al Pasqual, director of fraud security at the consulting firm Javelin Strategy and Research.
A task force created by federal officials in Florida has charged more than 400 people with causing more than $140 million in losses -- including more than 60 charged three weeks ago -- and officials say increasingly those arrested are gang members.
It's an organized crime -- but not "Organized Crime," said Bill Maddalena, assistant special agent in charge of the white-collar branch of the Miami FBI office. "They're very well organized. They have to recruit people to help steal devices, cash the checks."
And because gang members are engaging more in fraud, there are fewer turf wars.
As officials crack down on one type of scam, criminals move on to the next. Gang members learn the craft from each other -- but many are also millennials, "raised in a computer age, and they know how to use it," said Lt. Greg Besson of the NYPD's financial crimes task force.
The nation's largest police department has revamped how it responds to financial crimes after officials started noticing street gangs with recoded credit cards.
The Outlaw Gangsta Crips in Brooklyn, New York, made about $500,000 this year in a paycheck fraud scheme that involved obtaining a legitimate paycheck and then using the information to create and quickly cash phony checks before they were taken down. But they also robbed check-cashing stores and were charged with conspiracy to kill two people, authorities said. Most cases are pending.
In Union County, New Jersey, the 111 Neighborhood Crips made tens of thousands in fake tax returns -- and four of the 12 indicted this summer were also charged with murder and attempted murder in separate incidents. Their cases are pending.
The Van Dyke crew operated out of a public housing development. Their scheme, uncovered this year, stretched along the East Coast, as far as north Boston and as south as Washington. They recruited bank account holders and then used more than 350 accounts to deposit fake money orders. A dozen suspected gang members and associated were arrested and charged by federal officials with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Associated Press Writer Coleen Long contributed to this report.