GLOSSARY OF TERMS
Choose one of the categories below to narrow your choiceCrime & Law Enforcement
Provision of the 1997 National Defense Authorization Act that allows the federal government to transfer surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
It is Section 1033 of the bill.
A mobile phone purchased to be used anonymously and then thrown away.
A common way to obtain one is to buy a cheap phone along with pre-paid minutes, paying cash for everything. While the phones and pre-paid time have many legitimate uses (and are not made to be disposable), they have become a common tool for people planning crimes because it can be extremely difficult for law enforcement to link them to the user.
Civil Asset Forfeiture
An agreement by two or more people to commit a crime.
The crime does not have to actually be committed, or successful.
At least one of the co-conspirators must take some action in support of the conspiracy, although that action does not need to be illegal in itself.
Also referred to as the War on Drugs, the term was first used by President Richard Nixon to describe using federal resources to eliminate illegal drugs in the country.
For more, visit the Drug Policy Alliance website.
A defense to a criminal charge in which the defendant claims to have committed the crime only because they were coerced by a government official, and would not otherwise have committed the crime.
For more, read the Justia article.
Equitable Sharing Program
A 1984 program that allows property seized by state or local law enforcement agencies by Civil Asset Forfeiture to be turned over to the federal government.
The federal government then sells the property and returns part of the proceeds to the agency that confiscated the property.
Usually referred to as capital punishment or the death penalty, it is the taking of the life of a person convicted of certain crimes (referred to a capital offenses) under certain circumstances.
Click here for a list of states that allow executions, those which don't, and those that technically do but there is a current moratorium.
A serious crime (as opposed to less serious crimes such as misdemeanors and infractions).
Different jurisdictions define felonies differently. Federal laws that are punishable by more than a year in prison are classified as felonies. Each state has its own definition.
An unauthorized attempt to exploit a computer system for an illicit purpose.
This can include cracking - or obtaining by illicit means - passwords.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by an offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.
For more, visit www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes.Referenced by...
An organized system of forced, fraudulent, or coerced subjugation of people, for the purpose of commercial sex or labor.
For more, visit the website for the Polaris Project
Slang term for money paid to someone in exchange for their silence about something that could compromise the payer.
The term identity theft has become the common term for when someone pretends to be you for criminal reasons.
Some of the fraudulent practices of identity thieves include...
If someone does file a tax return as you, the following is likely to happen..
To learn more about the IRS's limited resources in fighting identity theft, read our discussion on IRS funding.
To learn more about identity theft, including what you should do if you think you're a victim, visit www.IdentityTheft.gov.
Buying or selling investments based on information that has not been made public.Referenced by...
To kill someone by mob action without legal authority for an alleged offense.Referenced by...
Taking money obtained from criminal activity (dirty money) and "laundering" it to make it appear as though it were legally obtained (clean money).
Criminals use a variety of methods, including real estate purchases, cash smuggling to offshore banks, and deposits in businesses that deal in large amounts of cash. They often use shell companies and complicated layers of financial transactions to disguise the true source of the money.
Methods of money laundering have interesting names. They include...
The scheme requires the cooperation of the bank involved. Here's how it works...
In reality, the two clients are the same.
This scheme involves two shell companies and another cooperating company.
One shell company lends (dirty) money to the other. The loan is guaranteed by the third company. When the borrowing company defaults on the loan, the lending company sues. A court then orders the insuring company to pay the lending company the (clean) amount that was guaranteed.
Obstruction of Justice
A crime involving interfering with the actions of legal officials.
Among actions that could be considered obstruction of justice include bribing or intimidating a witness or judge, or destroying evidence.
For more, read the description at TheFreeDictionary.com.
The conditional release of a prisoner before the have completed their designated sentence.
To be granted parole, the prisoner must have demonstrated they are not a likely threat to commit additional crimes. Once paroled, the prisoner must follow certain conditions specified in their parole agreement.
Parole benefits the prisoner by allowing a smoother transition back into society. It benefits society by reducing prison costs and receiving benefits from a productive member of society.
For more, read the NOLO article.Referenced by...
Email - usually from a source that appears to be trustworthy - sent to be malicious in some way.
For example, the link in the email might be pretending to be for your bank. Clicking it and entering your password will give your password to the hackers. Or clicking might install malicious software on your computer.
Spear phishing - is a type of phishing directed toward a specific person or organization.
A financial fraud scheme in which investors' return is not based on the stated purpose of the investment, but rather on others investing later.
As long as more people keep investing, previous investors will get paid (from that new money). But once new investors cannot be found, the most recent ones will not receive anything.
The perpetrator of the scheme simply skims money from each investment in order to profit from it.
For more, read the Investopedia description.
The amount of time a person convicted of a crime must serve in prison.
If a person is convicted of multiple crimes, the sentences can run concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (one sentence begins after the other ends).
Essentially, dishonest and fraudulent business dealings.
In law it is a classification of 35 federal and state crimes (referred to as predicate crimes) that must be committed under certain circumstances....
Predicate crimes include...
For more, read this Justia description.
RICO: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
Part of the 1970 Organized Crime Control Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, was enacted to help the government prosecute racketeering crimes.
The RICO act also allows for lawsuits to be based on racketeering.
Click here for more information on the bill.
A company that has no real underlying business, but rather serves only as a vehicle for financial transactions.
While not necessarily illegal, shell companies often are created to cover up illegal activity - such as for disguising who the participants are of financial transactions.
Late 1980s sting operation to uncover bribe-taking by members of California's state legislature.
FBI agents posed as representatives of a shrimp-processing company seeking a loan guaranteed by the state in order to build a plant near Sacramento. They offered bribes.
Twelve officials were convicted. Four were state legislators:
For more, read the Marshall Project story.
Statute of Limitations
A limit to how long after you commit a crime that you can be held responsible for it.
For example, if you understate your income on your tax return by more than 25 percent, the current law has a 6-year statute of limitations - meaning that after six years the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can no longer reassess your tax liability.
A law-enforcement operation in which officers create opportunities for someone to take criminal actions they can be prosecuted for.
Stings are undertaken against people believed to be involved in criminal behavior.
They differ from entrapment, in that they merely create the opportunity to commit a crime. They don't coerce the target to do so.
A purchase where someone buys something for someone else who is unable to buy it themselves.
For example, someone legally purchasing a gun ostensibly for them, but in reality for someone who cannot legally own one.
A term generally used to describe illegal acts that are politically-motivated and that cause harm of some sort.
Often the harm is to people who are not specifically targeted by the perpetrator. But it can be against property.
It is not necessarily violent, for example in the case of an internet attack on a computer system (cyber terrorism) or a financial system.
For more on the difficulty of defining what exactly constitutes terrorism, read this ABC News story.