(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today joined members of the Ohio General Assembly in calling for the adoption of tougher laws dealing with cyber fraud. The proposal, sponsored by State Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) and State Representative Ross McGregor (R-Springfield), would give the Attorney General's Office authority to investigate cyber fraud and prepare cases for local prosecution.
"Cyber fraud is one of the fastest growing problems for law enforcement. With our statewide database of complaints, the Attorney General's Office has the unique ability to spot patterns of criminal activity. This legislation will give us the tools to investigate cyber fraud cases and help bring these scammers to justice," said Attorney General DeWine
Cyber fraud is a newer form of telecommunications fraud or wire fraud, where the theft or scam occurs by electronic communication. In 2010, 7,304 Ohioans reported being victims of cyber fraud, losing more than $10 million. Cyber fraud has been advanced by scammers using e-commerce websites like eBay and Craigslist, social media platforms like Facebook, or phone scams to pose as family members or telemarketers. Due to its complex nature, most local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to investigate cyber fraud. Further hindering local investigations is the fact that most cyber fraud is reported to state and federal agencies because the crime occurs over the phone or Internet.
The proposed legislation will give the Attorney General's Office authority to investigate cyber fraud with subpoena power. The ability to subpoena the phone records, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and payment information will allow the Attorney General's Office to prepare these cases for prosecution by a county or special prosecutor and assist local law enforcement with any investigation.
The proposed legislation will also complement efforts started by Attorney General DeWine to create an Economic Crimes Division within the office's Consumer Protection Section. The Economic Crimes Division was established to prepare criminal consumer fraud cases for local prosecution. After only two such cases were prosecuted in 2010, the new division has indicted suspects in several counties for more than twenty felonies committed against Ohio consumers. Just last week, the division saw its first criminal conviction, involving a Cincinnati-area man who had cheated homeowners for whom he had promised to do repair work.
"In March of this year, I pledged enhanced resources to help law enforcement and county prosecutors bring criminal scammers to justice. We have made significant progress bringing those who defraud consumers to justice, and this legislation will help us make a difference in the area of cyber fraud," Attorney General DeWine said.
The proposed legislation will be sponsored by State Senator Bacon with a companion bill introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives by State Representative McGregor. The proposal already has the support of several county prosecutors, including Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O'Brien and Ross County Prosecutor Matthew S. Schmidt, who spoke in favor of the bill at a news conference.
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Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840