New and Emerging Crime Groups in America Essay

Abstract

There are many crime groups that have been operating worldwide and in the United States for quite some time.  In my paper, I present the various organizations’ background; what caused them to go from a largely underground, unknown entity, to the public’s knowledge of them becoming heightened.  I will be focusing on the African, Asian Russian and Middle Eastern crime organizations.  They are all different, but almost all were aided by globalization of the world’s economies and the politics of their countries.

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New and Emerging Crime Groups in America

Not so long ago, when Americans thought of organized crime, they thought of John Gotti and the Mafia or Pablo Escobar and the Cartel.  That was then.  The face of organized crime in the United States and the world is changing.  The Africans are defrauding people internationally, Russians have their country’s government, the Asians are smuggling people, and the Middle Easterners are so thoroughly integrated that they can offer sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.  Yet all are supported by money laundering scams using a worldwide network.

African Organized Crime

African organized crime came to the United States in the late 80s because of the globalization of the world’s economies, more advanced communication, easier international travel, and international financial transactions.  Because of their international ties, most victims of African organized crime are located worldwide.  Certain African countries (Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia) help foster organized crime because of the various political, social, and economic problems plaguing them (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

The most prominent of the African organized crime groups are Nigerians.  Nigerians operate in 80 countries and are one of the most dangerous criminal groups worldwide.  Nigerians primary income is through drug trafficking.  Their drug trafficking is so integrated, that they now have access to 90% of the world’s heroin.  Aiding their progress and assimilation into various countries are their money laundering schemes.  While drug trafficking is their main source of income, Nigerians are famous for their financial frauds.  Since they are in every major American city, they defraud 1-2 billion dollars a year from Americans alone.  The targets in these schemes are varied, they range from individuals all the way to the government.  Their fraudulent activities include insurance scams, billing scams, bank fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, and more.  The Internet has enabled many groups to reach even more people and make more money (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).  Just recently Dateline had a special that tracked identity thieves all the way back to Nigeria from an email sent to a person in the United States.

Russian Mafia

Most Americans link with the Russian Mafia, happened through the National Hockey League.  Professional hockey players Zhitnik, Malakhov, and Magilny were outed as being extorted by the Russian Mafia (Public Broadcasting System, 1997).  How did the Russians get to them?  The Russians are a subset of a larger criminal organization known as “Eurasian Organized Crime.”  Eurasian criminal factions are broken down by countries or areas.  For instance, the former Soviet Union or Central Europe is classified as Eurasian.  Just like with the Nigerians, the state aided their emergence as a crime faction and eventually their move worldwide (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

Eurasian organized crime started in the Soviet prison system.  Vory V Zakone, “thieves in law,” joined forces in prison.  When the Soviet Union collapsed, the thieves aligned themselves with corrupt public officials.  Now they had access to privatized industries through public officials, which in turn meant a steady cash flow and a plethora of laundering opportunities (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

By 1993, Boris Yeltsin proclaimed organized crime as the main threat to Russia.  It was already too late.  The Soviets had moved worldwide through legal immigration, mainly to the United States and Israel, in the late 70s and became fully interwoven in the United States in the early 90s.  The crimes they commit in the United States are healthcare fraud, securities and investment fraud, money laundering, and are very involved in human smuggling and prostitution.  It is worse in the former Soviet Union where crime syndicates are close to destabilizing the political system which could give them access to nuclear weapons.  They have become so prevalent here, that from 1994-1999, no fewer than seven cities in the United States established investigative squads to concentrate specifically on Russian organized crime (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007 ).

Asian Criminal Organizations

Asian organized crime has been in Asia for centuries.  There are various groups, but many do not have a formal name.  This lack of a formal name confused many in law enforcement until the FBI clarified organized crime as any criminal organization that is motivated by profit (U.S. Department of State, 2002).

Members are usually recruited by family members, social connections, or geographic ties.  They are then expected to pledge allegiance to the enterprise. Asian organized crime groups are very difficult to track because their agreements are usually verbal and sealed with a handshake, therefore there is no paper trail (U.S. Department of State, 2002).

Now there are new Asian gangs that are emerging in Southeast Asia.  The entity has no name and the leader has prior street gang experience.  What is unusual is, they take in anyone who can help the organization, regardless of his or her previous affiliation.  Quite often bitter rivals will join the enterprise and put aside their differences and become loyal to their new group and members (U.S. Department of State, 2002).

The Asian organized crime groups took advantage of globalization also.  That coupled with lax immigration laws enabled them to be on every continent except Antarctica.  Today they commit crimes like extortion, kidnaping, murder, and smuggling to dealing counterfeit products (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

Even though they commit a broad range of crimes, they have many characteristics among themselves.  They usually operate across ethnic and racial lines, they have begun to structurize their hierarchal groups to be more competitive, and their activities have been more globalized.  They are moving more towards white-collar crimes and are intertwining their illegal ventures with legitimate ventures (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

Asian crime groups have been in the United States since the early 1900s.  The main groups that affect the United States have ties to China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.  Today they are in more than 50 metropolitan areas like Milwaukee, San Francisco, New Orleans, and every major city in the United States with a high Asian population (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

Middle Eastern Organizations

The international criminal organizations from the Middle East are concentrated in Turkey, Pakistan, India, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and Cyprus.  They operate by smuggling merchandise through their region, which is ground zero for drug and arms smuggling, evading sanctions from the United States, and transporting information and equipment associated with weapons of mass destruction.  They are so adept at smuggling drugs that Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of illegal opium.  Pakistan aids Afghanistan by operating as an intermediary for Afghanistan’s opiates in addition to their own illegal opium.  They have been able to operate primarily underground by hiding their funds using underground banking systems.  Yet, when they need to, they will use corrupt politicians and business ventures (Federation of American Scientists, 2007).

Organized crime in the Middle East has exploded onto the forefront because of the Taliban.  The Taliban have given traffickers immunity in Afghanistan, and given sanctuary to Osama bin Laden.  In turn, bin Laden uses his money and power to support the Taliban (Federation of American Scientists, 2007).

In the United States, Middle Eastern organized crime groups usually use store fronts to operate their criminal operations.  After 9/11, the FBI took a renewed interest in Middle Eastern crime groups, and discovered that some have no ties to the Middle East whatsoever.  The activities they associate themselves with include the usual fraud, but also cigarette smuggling and redistributing infant formula (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

They have not yet gained foothold in every major city in the United States, but the majority of Middle Eastern crime operates out of Ohio, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey.  They are thriving in Canada, Iran, Turkey, U.A.E., Pakistan, and Afghanistan (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2007).

Conclusion

People say the Italian Mafia is dead.  Maybe they are very much alive, but have been eclipsed by more powerful and wealthier organizations, none of which are going to disappear anytime soon.  All of these powerful new organizations are part of a bigger web, take them out and it is inevitable that a new one will appear.

References

Federal Bureau of Investigation.  (2007, April 16).  Organized crime.  Retrieved April 16, 2007, from http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/orgcrime/ecoindex.htm.

Federation of American Scientists.  (2007, April 10).  International crime threat assessment, chapter 3.  Retrieved April 16, 2007 from http://www.fas.org/irp/threat/pub45270chapIII.html#r13

Public Broadcasting Service.  (1997).  Russian organized crime, center for strategic and international studies (CSIS) task force report (1997).  Retrieved April 16, 2007 from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/hockey/mafia/csis.html

U.S. Department of State.  (2002, March 25-39).  Asian criminal enterprises.  Retrieved April 16, 2007 from http://www.usinfo.state.gov/eap/Archive_Index/Asian_Criminal_Enterprises.html

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