Felony Lane Gang is not a gang

If you do a Google search for the term “Felony Lane Gang”, you will get “about 2,860,001” results. That’s a little more than a bunch. Most of them appear to be news reports with titles such as,“Felony Lane Gang targets Moms”, “EPD arrests woman they say is part of the Felony Lane Gang”, or “Felony Lane Gang Ramping Up Again”. The commonality of these reports is the generalization that all of these bad actors have a familial connection. The news reporters and journalists undoubtedly get this bent from those of us in law enforcement and financial industry security who flippantly suggest the connection. We casually suggest the conspiracy by referring to every group who steals bags and cashes checks through the far drive-through teller lane as “the Felony Lane Gang”. Singular. As if they are all connected like a crime family or neighborhood sect of a national gang.

They are not. And we should stop doing this.

“The” Felony Lane Gang did exist. They were a group from Florida that traveled the east coast and were eventually arrested and prosecuted in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. My home bailiwick. Many of us remember this case, and I’m sure that a few readers of this newsletter were involved in the investigation and prosecution of the case. It was brilliant work. Here is one of the press releases from 2014 that I could find still online https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/leader-floridas-million-dollar-felony-lane-gang-sentenced-more-15-years-prison.

The method of operation (MO) was to steal purses and bags from unattended vehicles, then disguise themselves as the victims, and cash the checks through the far lane of the bank drive-through. The distance of the far lane made it more difficult, and sometimes impossible, for the teller to discern the actual identity of the driver presenting the check. The thief just had to look closely enough. The farthest lane of the drive-through has become known as the “Felony Lane”.

The group's MO was not unique but the frequency and aggressiveness of this group caught the attention of federal law enforcement culminating in a prosecution by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

I’m sure that other groups across the United States had been committing such crimes before this indictment. And I’m sure that other local police and financial institution security investigators had referred to the group by something along the lines of “felony lane gang”. But this was the first group, at least that I’m aware of, to be made infamous by a significant prosecution and imprisonment.

And there is the point, this was just one group of many that had used the same MO. There have been hundreds of groups, large and small, all across the country that have used it since. They have no connection but the MO. Yet, every group email, intelligence report, and press release will mention “The Felony Lane Gang”. Singular.

News articles such as this from 2020 perpetuate the problem. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/01/17/fbi-felony-lane-gang-has-targeted-moms-across-us/4506297002/ This reporter not only claims the “Felony Lane Gang has been Terrozing Moms Across the United States for Years” but asserts “Over the last five years, more than 1,500 Felony Lane Gang members have been identified and arrested nationwide”. I”m sure that there have been over 1500 persons arrested for thefts consistent with the felony lane gang MO, but to believe that they are related and all 1500 persons were part of a singular group is crazy. That would certainly make THE FELONY LANE GANG (singular) one of the largest and most virulent criminal groups in America. There are only about 2000 active Hells Angels members, yet law enforcement agencies across the country have hundreds of officers tasked with investigating them.

Without a doubt, there is a group in California, right now, smashing windows of vehicles parked in health clubs lots and cashing the checks. Just as there is currently a group here in central Pennsylvania smashing windows out of vehicles parked at health clubs and using the checks and gift cards. The only connection between the actors is the use of the same MO.

Our wording matters. How we group threat actors matters. It seems that “ felony lane actors” or “felony lane activity” would be accurate and fitting to describe these criminal groups. Anything but referring to every incident in the singular and somehow connected!

#policing #threatintel