The following is an op-ed contributed by Abe George, candidate for the office of the Brooklyn District Attorney in 2013’s citywide elections.
What is a cybercrime lab? Well, you might have heard last week that prosecutors in Manhattan obtained one, at a cost of $4.2 million awarded from the city. It will be used to assist the already existing identity theft and cybercrime unit of the New York County District Attorney’s office, where a group of specialized prosecutors and forensic analysts investigate crimes of identity theft and credit card fraud.
Why should you care? Because the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office not only has no cybercrime lab, it has no dedicated identity theft unit at all.
While law enforcement officials and prosecutors around the country have been gearing up to battle the growing epidemic of identity theft-related crimes, I fear that Brooklyn is lagging behind, and here’s why.
If you have not been a victim of identity theft or some form of credit card fraud, I bet you know someone who has. Identity theft is the nation’s fastest growing crime, and Brooklyn has felt the pain.
Unfortunately, incidents like the one reported last month involving a pizzeria owner in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn are all too familiar. In that case, the restaurant owner, Saverino Careri, had his license erroneously revoked after a perpetrator found it and piled up loads of traffic violations as he pretended to be him. Mr. Careri, who desperately needs to drive for his business, reportedly received short shrift from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office after requesting assistance. It was only after a critical article appeared in the media that the Brooklyn DA finally budged to clear up Careri’s misfortunes.
Earlier this spring, a 28 people were caught and prosecuted for running an identity theft ring based in Brooklyn. The only problem is that they were found and prosecuted by the District Attorney in Manhattan, not Brooklyn.
Why is it that we have to rely on Manhattan to clean up Brooklyn’s mess?
We should be thankful that prosecutors from across the river came to our aid last spring, but it is undoubtedly a problem when the incumbent District Attorney, Charles Hynes, still lacks the initiative or expertise to handle these types of cases right here in Brooklyn.
I am troubled when law enforcement officials tell me, as I have heard first-hand, that they avoid bringing identity theft investigations to Charles Hynes because his office lacks the resources to properly pick through bank records, trace stolen bank accounts and navigate the complex area of applicable laws.
As a former prosecutor who has prosecuted identity theft and credit card cases, I know these investigations are often time and labor intensive while demanding a specialized level of expertise. So while Manhattan readies its multi-million dollar cybercrime lab, it leaves me to wonder whether the reason Manhattan has one, and Brooklyn does not, is that the Manhattan DA simply had the initiative and foresight to ask.
We need to be concerned that without a dedicated identity theft unit, the Brooklyn DA is failing to arm its prosecutors with the most effective and advanced tools to take on the most widespread crimes of a modern age.
Abe George served in the Manhattan D.A.’s office as an assistant district attorney for the last eight years. Throughout his career Abe has investigated and prosecuted assaults, robberies, drug cases, and homicides. He is now currently in private practice and is a candidate for Brooklyn District Attorney next year in 2013. You can learn more about him from his website.