- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - A prosecutor-turned-legislator argued Friday to expand Nevada’s racketeering laws in an effort to put away kingpins of credit card theft schemes.

Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro brought to the Legislature this year her experience prosecuting 11 people in 2015 for running a forgery ring around Las Vegas and Henderson resorts.

The Las Vegas Democrat is sponsoring legislation that would make it easier to indict ringleaders of such schemes when she returns to her job as Clark County deputy district attorney after the legislative session.

At a hearing on the proposal, Cannizzaro said it currently is difficult for law enforcement officers and attorneys to prove that people who organize teams of hackers are committing crimes themselves.

Senate Bill 362 would criminalize the act of conspiring to commit credit card forgery or identify theft. It would also outlaw plotting to build a computer system intended to commit those crimes.

“This particular bill will not solve every instance of identity theft, but what this will help us target are the larger operations that are occurring,” Cannizzaro told the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Lawmakers and police officers spoke candidly at the hearing about their personal experiences with identity theft, agreeing the issue is rampant and worthy of stricter enforcement.

Cannizzaro and Chuck Callaway of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said high-traffic locations like gas stations are prime hacking settings - the more information criminals can snag, the more chances they’ll have of finding available cash and credit.

The ring Cannizzaro went after in 2015 moved between hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, purchasing stolen personal information online and coupling it with handmade credit cards.

“At the casinos, at least in the case that I worked on, it was an easy conduit to use in order to get the cash-advance receipts from the machines in the casinos, which don’t require a face-to-face interaction,” Cannizzaro said after the hearing.

They cashed in the receipts and moved on to another resort, amassing what Cannizzaro later showed to be the personal information of hundreds of thousands of people.

Legal change is needed, she said, “to help identify and target the higher-level offenders so that we can effectively stop these large-level identity theft schemes in the Las Vegas Valley and within the rest of the state of Nevada.”

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