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California is top crime target in US: report

SACRAMENTO, California--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 being 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, California Attorney General Kamala Harris said in the report.

“California is a global leader on a number of fronts and, unfortunately, transnational criminal activity is one of them,” the report states.

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

She was set to formally release the 181-page report during a news conference with other law enforcement officials in Los Angeles. It was obtained in advance by The Associated Press.

“These organizations have taken advantage of the technological revolution of the last two decades, as well as advancements in trade, transport and global money transfers, to substantially increase the scale and profitability of their criminal activities in California,” the report states.

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 state also is particularly vulnerable to thefts of intellectual property because of its leading role in developing new technologies and mass-media entertainment.

“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 states.

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

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