Report: California is top crime target in US

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm •  Published: March 20, 2014

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is the top target in the U.S. for international criminal enterprises that operate from safe havens in Eastern Europe, Africa and China, according to a report released Thursday.

Along with trafficking in drugs, guns and people, criminals are also turning to cybercrime to target wealthy, innovative businesses and financial institutions in the state, the report by the state attorney general says.

"We know that they use technology directly in a way that perpetuates and commits crimes, in particular the crimes of hacking and data breaches and malware," California Attorney General Kamala Harris said as she released the report in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles region is particularly vulnerable to digital piracy, she said, because it produces much of the nation's movies and other mass-market media.

Harris said the 181-page report is the first to outline the effects of international criminal organizations on California residents and businesses.

It says California leads all states in the number of computer systems hacked or infected by malware; victims of Internet crimes and identity theft; and the amount of financial losses suffered as a result of online crimes.

The report says many of the breaches have been tied to criminal organizations operating out of locations including Russia, Ukraine, China and Nigeria.

"Their impact is tremendous, in the hundreds of millions of dollars from small business, mom and pop operations, who lose their very existence to a financial crime, to a scheme that's being origined out of Romania, out of Egypt, out of Israel, out of parts well off of our shores," Los Angeles police Assistant Chief Michel R. Moore said at the news conference.

California's gross domestic product of $2 trillion along with its significant foreign trade activity and its border with Mexico also make the state a target for international money-laundering schemes. The report estimates that more than $30 billion is laundered through the state economy each year.