Cyberspace used to recruit gang members

Aug. 2, 2009 at 7:16 PM

WINTER GARDEN, Fla., Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Gangs, often using the Internet, have spread beyond southern Florida into central Florida and farther, the U.S. National Gang Intelligence Center said.

Gangs target Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook as major recruiting opportunities, the Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel reported Sunday. More than 15 percent of Florida high school and middle school students said they had at least one close friend as a gang member in the last year.

The newspaper reported gangs use seemingly legitimate businesses to front money laundering operations, usually drug-based.

"It gives it the appearance of legitimacy," said Brent Harrison, the lead case agent at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Alleged gang members are typically charged with racketeering, conspiracy to traffic in cocaine and money laundering.

"Witness and victim intimidation is a huge problem," Harrison said.

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