Monday, March 31, 2014

Broward's 'Felony Lane Gang' spreads crime wave across U.S.


Highly organized packs of thieves from the Fort Lauderdale area are spreading a rash of crimes across Florida and much of the nation, breaking into cars in Orlando, stealing identities in North Carolina, cashing bad checks in Pennsylvania and providing a model for copycat gangs from coast to coast.

The "Felony Lane Gang" — so named because they use drive-thru bank lanes farthest from security cameras and tellers — began as a group of friends and family in Broward County, and police say marauding members and recruits still send much of their ill-gotten gains back home to South Florida.

Their origins remain mysterious, but Broward County Sheriff's Detective Mitch Gordon thinks "it pretty much started here in Broward County, or the tri-county area. Some are family — cousins, brothers, sisters. It was a bunch of low criminals, and someone said, 'Hey, let's use these criminals to go steal credit cards.' That's how it got organized."

A series of criminal convictions and sentencings in Pennsylvania this month has stymied at least one traveling crew of the Broward-based gang. The 10 culprits were accused of stealing about a million dollars and victimizing 150 people. But investigators expect the crime wave to continue as other gang members roam the country and unaffiliated thieves follow their example.