Organized Crime and Fraud

Organized crime is global and has roots going back to the beginning of modern society in one way or another. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officially recognizes crime groups and classifies them according to six geographic regions:

  • African Transnational Organized Crime
  • Asian Transnational Organized Crime
  • Balkan Transnational Organized Crime
  • Eurasian Transnational Organized Crime
  • Italian Organized Crime/Mafia 
  • Middle Eastern Transnational Organized Crime

The main goal of most organized crime groups is economic gain. In order to attain that goal, crime groups engage in multiple kinds of illegal activities such as money laundering, gambling, drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, human trafficking, and many more. According to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), organized crime activities were valued at $870 billion per year with drug trafficking being the biggest activity at $350 billion a year.[1]

Advances in digital technology and the internet have played a big part in helping organized crime groups engage in more untraceable activities. The UN recognizes cybercrime as an increasing form of transnational organized crime. As a result, the UNODC through its Global Programme on Cybercrime is promoting awareness, prevention, and international cooperation.

In the United States, perhaps the most well-known organized crime group is La Cosa Nostra, also known as the Mafia. This group is an extensive collection of Italian-American organized crime families operating in the U.S. since the 1920s. Despite dwindling numbers of members due to effective law enforcement and competing criminal groups, this organization is probably still the biggest group in the United States with around 3,000 members.[2]

In South Florida, the Eurasian crime group, also known as the Russian Organized Crime (ROC), has increased its presence over recent years and has become a FBI priority.  The ROC term refers to groups of criminals from the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union (such as Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia). The term “Russian” is used to describe this crime group regardless of geographic borders.  Although ROC is involved in money laundering and other traditional criminal activities, most of its criminal business is concentrated on credit card fraud, health care fraud, stock fraud, and insurance scams.[3]

Terrorist organizations are a special kind of organized crime group. Like all organized crime, terrorist groups need funding. Here we see a unique form of fraud called reverse money laundering. Instead of transforming money from illegal to legal, as done in ordinary money laundering, these groups receive funding by moving money created legally into illegal channels. For example, major funding to Middle Eastern terrorists come from organizations and businesses sympathetic to the movement and having funds earned legally. 

[1]United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC (2012, July 16). New UNODC Campaign Highlights Transnational Organized Crime as a US$870 Billion a Year Business. Retrieved on October 24, 2018, from

[2] Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) website. What We Investigate, Transnational Organized Crime section. Retrieved on November 14, 2018, from

[3] Finckenauer, J. O. (2007, December 5). Russian Organized Crime in the United States. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved on November 6, 2018, from