In our last post we discussed the indictment and arrest of individuals involved in a human trafficking and underage prostitution ring based in Minneapolis that stretched to Tennessee and Ohio. In this post, we will discuss the additional financial crime charges that authorities are investigating and the how the sex crime charges led to the financial crime investigation of the Minneapolis based Somali gangs.
According to sources close to the investigation, the underage prostitution ring is small part of a larger criminal scheme that involves credit card fraud, tampering with witnesses and burglary. Prosecutors often look to implicate defendants involved in cross state crimes on federal charges because federal crime charges have longer prison sentences in comparison to state crime charges. Authorities involved in the human trafficking case also alleged financial crimes in order to indict more gang members involved in the cross state criminal scheme.
Human trafficking cases can also be hard to prove, so federal investigators and prosecutors look to other actions that occur across state lines such as tax evasion, mail fraud or cyber crime to build a more successful case. Human trafficking cases often involve other crimes and investigators will follow money trails to financial crimes.
The financial crimes alleged in the indictments against the Somali gangs include counterfeit credit card production and use and stolen cash, payroll checks and credit card numbers. The gangs allegedly created 500 fake credit cards and used them to shop at Walmarts in the Twin Cities and in Missouri. Gang members were also accused of possessing 166 credit card account numbers and using the credit card information to purchase $231,000 in goods and services. The credit card information was allegedly gleaned by gang members who worked for a hotel in the Twin Cities. Authorities say they will follow whatever criminal charges lead to building the best case against the gangs.
Source: Star Tribune, “A Huge Web of Gang Crime,” David Chanen and James Walsh, 11/10/10