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California has long been known as one of the epicenters of insurance fraud, medical fraud, and other organized crimes. And now, according to a new 118 page report by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, California leads all states in the number of computer systems hacked or infected by malware, the number of victims of Internet crimes, the amount of financial losses suffered as a result and the number of victims of identity fraud. The report says the state also is particularly vulnerable to thefts of intellectual property because of its leading role in developing new technologies and mass-media entertainment. The report should serve as a wake up call to any California businesses that maintain data on individuals such as insurance companies that digitize claim files, and third party administrators.

Between 2009 and 2012, the number of intentional breaches of computer networks and databases in the U.S. jumped by 280 percent, with California’s share leading the nation. Many of these breaches have been tied to transnational criminal organizations operating from Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Israel, Egypt, China, and Nigeria, among other places.

The report claims that transnational criminal organizations are increasingly taking advantage of new communications technology and the interconnectedness of the globalized world to further their trafficking activities in California. This creates new challenges for law enforcement. But transnational organized crime in California extends beyond drugs, weapons, and human trafficking. In the 21st century, the problem posed by transnational criminal organizations threatens the security of computer and data networks, the integrity of online bank accounts, and the rights of intellectual property holders. By virtue of its population and knowledge-powered economy, “California is the top target in the nation for this new generation of transnational criminal organizations – originating in significant numbers from Eastern Europe, but also Africa and China – whose purpose is to commit highly profitable hacking, fraud, and digital piracy crimes.”

California’s gross domestic product of $2 trillion, significant foreign trade activity and border with Mexico also makes the state an easy target for international money-laundering schemes, the report says. It estimates that more than $30 billion is laundered through California’s economy each year. Some is filtered through legitimate businesses or by using virtual currencies such as Bitcoin. But the report says backpacks and duffel bags stuffed with cash have been seized more frequently since Mexico began toughening its money-laundering laws in 2010. Seizures of bulk cash increased 40 percent by 2011 in California, which now leads the nation in the number of currency seizures.

Transnational criminal organizations are taking advantage of new communications technologies and social media to facilitate criminal activity, recruit new members, and intimidate or harass their rivals – even from inside prison walls. In 2011, for example, over 15,000 cell phones were seized from inmates in California prisons. The public safety threat posed by Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations has been amplified as cartels have formed alliances with California prison and streetgangs to control trafficking routes, distribute drugs, and kidnap, extort, and kill as necessary to protect their criminal activities. The Mexican Mafia, for example, provides protection for members of numerous cartels both inside and outside prison, and various Hispanic Sureño and Norteño gangs in Southern and Northern California have teamed up with Sinaloa, La Familia Michoacana, The Knights Templar, and other Mexico-based drug trafficking organizations.