Transnational Crime and its Impact on the United States

By Elizabeth Hall

English: Standing on Pennsylvania Avenue NW an...
English: Standing on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and look up F Street NW at the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C., in the United States. Español: Edificio J. Edgar Hoover, la sede de FBI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the shift to globalization grows, and advances in technology make more things possible on a global scale, the face of crime is changing as well.  According to Reichel (2008), transnational crime is as defining on our times as the Cold War defined the 1950’s.  The importance of this issue is that it is a global problem, which has found its way into our country, and has far-reaching effects on all our communities. Transnational crimes are crimes that take place within the borders of two or more countries (Reichel, 2008).  According to Smith (2004), the reason that this is such a problem is that when a crime is transnational it multiplies the agencies that are involved which bring a plethora of different rules, laws, and investigation types when it involves more than one country.  We will explore eight types of transnational crimes, computer crimes, bribery and or corruption of a public official, drug trafficking, money laundering, sea piracy, theft of cultural objects, and trafficking in humans or their body parts including the extent of these crimes, and their impact on the United States.

A crime becomes a computer crime when a computer is the tool used to commit the crime, which is also known as cyber crimes.  While not all computer crimes are transnational, advancements in technology have made the use of a computer in another country a 
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Click Here -- HelloTallahassee.com .....item 2..34
 Men Arrested in Underage Sex Sting, Names and Pictures Released -- North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task..ICAC..operation dubbed TALLYOP (October 18, 2011) ... (Photo credit: marsmet552)
useful tool to commit crimes in the United States without ever leaving their home country.  This particular crime is one of the worst for investigators simply because of the sheer amount of data to sort through during a transnational computer crime notes Smith (2004).  

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (n.d.) takes the lead in investigations involving transnational computer crimes, and  high tech computer crimes, which include cyber based terrorism, computer intrusions, cyber fraud,  internet scams, e-mail scams, and online sexual exploitation, intellectual property claims, and human trafficking groups that operate online. 

Some examples of these crimes, and how they affect the United States should be discussed to provide a clear picture of the enormity of the impact that these crimes can have.  One particularly nasty cyber issue is a threat called Citadel Malware, which delivers ransomware (FBI, 2012).  This allows the criminal to take over your computer by leading the recipient to a website that downloads the malware to the user’s machine.  The machine freezes displaying a screen that proclaims that the computer and user have infringed upon federal law, declaring that the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the federal government has seized the computer for viewing illegal web content such as child pornography (FBI, 2012).  

The user is then prompted to pay a fee of a hundred dollars to unlock it, unfortunately that is not the worst of it, as while they have your computer frozen they can commit crimes such as bank fraud with it notes the FBI (2012).  Many people lose money on these scams a year.  Another basic computer scam is the e-mails that claim that you have won the lottery, or a sweepstakes, usually in another country than the United States.  This crime works because the criminal is after the victim’s money, the swindle is that to get your lump sum winnings you have to pay taxes and fees up front but that you can borrow the money against the sum. 

They ultimately provide the victim with a check to deposit in their bank accounts, where they withdraw the funds and then send them to the lottery agent.  The reality is that when the check clears, the victims are charged to pay back the money taken from the account, but also hefty bank fees as well, while the criminals receive real funds from the victims (FBI 2012).  One of the ways that criminals get away with crimes such as these is to target the elderly populations in the United States.  Cyber Crime is particularly threatening because these criminals can control our power sources, water sources, banking systems, personal information, and personal accounts of anyone, and most transnational crime is performed in one way or another with the use of a computer.

Corruption and Bribery of Public Official
Reichel (2008) holds that the majority of people do not often consider bribery and corruption as transnational crimes, but rather as a domestic crime.  At first glance this may seem to be true, however when you consider the matter a little deeper it s easy to see why it is classified as transnational.  The issue at stake here is that when one country routinely allows corruption to influence their public officials, this can cause a ripple effect on a global scale by affecting the foreign policies of other countries.  The National Security Council (n.d.) holds that newly developing countries are particularly susceptible to corruption and bribery.  In the United States, political parties are reported to be the most corrupt point in our government, however Reichel (2008) goes on to say that in other countries the largest corruption center is usually found in the ranks of law enforcement.  The more global we become as a country, the more this will have effect on the United States and the rest of the world because of increased interaction between countries and the effect this has on the respective economies of the countries involved.

Illicit Drug Trafficking
The National Security Council (n.d.) maintains that illicit drug trafficking is a serious threat to many areas of our society such as health concerns, physical safety, national and local security, and our collective financial health.  There is a large demand for illicit drugs in both the United States and other countries.  However; the fact is that for the United States use of illicit narcotics is the main problem, whereas in other countries such as the region known as South East Europe has more trafficking problems and the southern regions of Asia and the Middle East have all three, major production, trafficking and substance abuse (Reichel, 2008).  Another thing worth noting is that illicit narcotics is a vehicle for funding other criminal or terroristic actions, such as using narcotics earnings to facilitate the purchase of weapons or materials used to commit other crimes. 

Money Laundering
When one thinks of money laundering, an image of a Mafia member might come to mind.  Traditionally, the definition of money 
united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web
united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web (Photo credit: kevindean)
laundering involves the method that criminal enterprises switch the traceable proceeds of the criminal activity into untraceable capital.  Reichel (2008) maintains that the reality is more sinister because we must remember and research how money laundering is used to facilitate other crimes like terrorism and larger criminal activities.  Examples of this are easy to see in our world today if you think upon the Middle Eastern region’s narcotic scenario in relation to the weaponry and materials that Al-Qaeda used to commit their terroristic actions.

The process of money laundering usually occurs in three stages called placement, layering, and integration (Reichel, 2008).  The placement stage often involves moving the money from the place of the criminal activity to another country and since it is easy to fit large sums of cash into relatively small spaces often moves by personal courier or ships.   The layering phase moves the money through the foreign country’s payment system such as the Hawala system in the Middle East, or the international system of creating a corporation in a place such as the Cayman Islands.  This is because they have strict corporate secrecy compliance laws protecting the owner’s identity, and provides a legitimate business that could conceivably be in control of large amounts of cash (Reichel, 2008). 
The Hawala system as discussed by Jost & Sandhu (n.d.) is another choice that persons interested in laundering money may use which is a legal payment system in many countries.  The system, which remains outside of conventional financial methods and transactions leaving the banks out completely has different names depending on location such as “chop” “chit” and even “flying money” notes Jost & Sandhu (n.d.). Systems such as this, remains a popular payment system globally.  The way this system works is to utilize family members and the services of a hawala dealer (hawaladars), and it serves to move finances without physically moving anything (Jost & Sandhu, n.d.). 

For example, let us say that Omar needs to send money either to the United States or to Pakistan, whichever place he is located.  For less money than a traditional banking system, would charge, Omar, can contact a hawala dealer and send the funds with less time and hassle than traditional banking notes Jost & Sandhu (n.d.).  Often the hawaladars are in the import export business and can use their invoicing to cover the money transfer without actually recording the details of the transactions.  This is a problem because the secret manner in recording the transactions makes it easier for criminals and terrorists to move money across the globe that is extremely hard to trace (Jost & Sandhu, n.d.).  The integration phase is where the criminals put the money back into legitimate accounts either offshore and use debit and credit cards, or in the case of the hawala dealer when it is transferred by the system (Reichel, 2008). 

Sea Piracy
When one thinks of pirates, what may come to mind are the swashbucklers like Blackbeard and Calico Jack, and without the mainstream media telling us about the Somali  pirate problem off of the coast of Africa we would only remember these guys from the history books.  In modern times, piracy is a very real problem particularly in Eastern Africa, the South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean holds Reichel (2008).  These pirates operate both nationally and internationally as they use the properties of the seas and oceans to commit transnational crime on small vessels with valuable cargo.  This is classified as armed robbery on a ship when you get right down to it.  The reason that this is such a problem is that the pirates do not care which country their chosen vessels to rob originate from, they want the cargo, which also makes this crime transnational when a pirate from say Somalia boards and attacks an American merchant ship off the Ivory Coast even though they are in international waters. 

Theft of Art and Cultural Objects
This crime has many names such as patrimonial crimes, and illicit antiquities, but involves unlawful receiving or taking of art or cultural objects from one country and selling them in another (Reichel, 2008).  Normally what is taken are paintings or sculptures with high monetary value.  The regions that have the most incidents of this type of crime are France, Germany, Poland, and Russia.  Most of these artifacts are taken from private collection and religious institutions (Reichert, 2008).  This crime is transnational because the criminals must travel to specific locations to steal art and cultural objects no matter what country they may live in.  The threat is that criminal organizations can make large sums of cash by fencing stolen artifacts with good cash values and fund other criminal activities such as terrorism, buying weapons, and buying other materials needed to commit crimes. 

Trafficking in Humans and Their Body Parts
Trafficking in humans and their body parts are both illegal business types that net their profits from the demands that are global illegal commodities such as young children and adults for servitude and the sex trades, or human body parts such as the liver or kidney because of the lack of readily available organs (Reichel, 2008).  Trafficking in persons usually involves involuntary slave labor or slavery style treatments.  The United Nations defines human trafficking as recruiting, transferring, aiding, or obtaining people by threatening or using force, coercion, abduction, or payment transfer concerning trafficking according to Reichel (2008).  The major threat here is that people are being abducted either, by the piece or the person to the highest bidder on the black market, and the funding obtained by these operations can fuel larger operations.  Another thing to consider is that there have been considerable issues in the United Sta
A picture of a Unknown bankrobber wanted by th...
A picture of a Unknown bankrobber wanted by the FBI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
tes, as the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (2010), notes with incidences reported in all fifty states including the D.C. area.  

As our world changes into a more globalized society, the criminal elements of individual societies change as well.  Transnational crime is becoming more dominant as technology changes and makes connecting globally easier and easier.  Criminal enterprises and terroristic groups use the technology we have to organize and commit crimes that involve more than one country, which make them harder to track and control, because of all of the different styles of governments, laws, and rules make it difficult for nations to fully report and or cooperate with the breakup of the activities.  These types of criminals utilize many types of illicit activity to fund and operate other larger types of crimes, which have a huge impact on all countries.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (n.d.).  Cyber Crime.  Retrieved From: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/cyber
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (2012).  New E-Scams and Warnings.  Retrieved From: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams
Jost, P.M. & Sandhu, H.S., (n.d.).  The Hawala Alternative Remittance System and its Role in Money Laundering.  Retrieved From: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/terrorist-illicit-finance/Documents/FinCEN-Hawala-rpt.pdf
National Security Council, (n.d).  Transnational Organized Crime: A Growing Threat to National and International Security.  Retrieved From: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/nsc/transnational-crime/threat
The Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, (2010).  Human Trafficking of Children in the United States.  Retrieved From:  http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osdfs/factsheet.html
Reichel, P.J., (2008).  Comparative Criminal Justice Systems: A Topical Approach, Fifth Edition.  Prentice Pearson United States.  ISBN 0-558-98506-8
Smith, R.G., (2004).  Abstract: Impediments to the Successful Investigation of Transnational High Tech Crime.  Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice.  No. 285 Australian Institute of Criminology

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