California forms special crimes unit to thwart e-thieves

California is well-known as a technology leader and innovator. The designation comes with a heavy price tag. The state is also an attractive nest for high-tech and intellectual property thieves, a situation that California officials have addressed by forming a new eCrime Unit.

The state attorney general recently announced that a staff of 20 specialized lawyers and investigators from the Department of Justice has been hired to root out and prosecute intellectual property theft and other technology-related crimes. The move is a good first step in the ongoing fight against piracy and intellectual property theft, which hurts many businesses and individuals.

The Federal Trade Commission ranks California as the state with the most identity theft complaints in the nation. The FTC estimates that more than 1 million state residents are identity theft victims every year, with personal losses of more than $46 million dollars.

One of the most frustrating problems law enforcement agencies and attorneys face when dealing with e-crimes is legal jurisdiction. Cybercrimes often stretch beyond one legal community into multiple geographic areas, including out of the state and outside the country. The formation of the eCrime Unit elevates criminal investigations to a state level, making prosecution easier.

Newly appointed powers allow the eCrime Unit to go after perpetrators of Internet scams, identity theft, computer hardware thieves, online child pornographers and intellectual property counterfeiters.

The eCrime Unit was active before the public announcement of its creation. It has successfully prosecuted several cybercrime offenders, including a Sacramento man who hacked into e-mail and Facebook accounts of victims in more than one dozen states.

Other cases are pending against an alleged counterfeit jeweler and others accused of stealing PIN numbers from ATM customers in seven California counties.

Source: Insurance Journal, “California AG Announces Creation of eCrime Unit,” Dec. 14, 2011