Prosecutors seek circuit court cybercrime fee

Cybercrimes range from possession of child pornography to non-delivery scams

By Stephen Simpson
The Jonesboro Sun

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Cybercrime sounds like something done in a dark room by a group of hackers.

But according to the law, using a fraudulent account number to buy something on Amazon is a cybercrime, and the 2nd Judicial District Prosecutor’s Office is making sure people pay for their crimes.

Assistant Prosecutor Grant DeProw told The Jonesboro Sun his office is looking at establishing a circuit court cybercrime fee that could be as much as $500.

“Any offenses that are computer related will have a fee attached to it along with the original punishment,” DeProw said.

DeProw said in 2017 Arkansas legislators passed a bill that allowed them to add a cybercrime fee to almost any felony that requires special electronic investigation.

According to AR Code 5-4-706, a circuit court can assess an additional fee of up to $500 for each applicable felony conviction for an offense that involved the use of a computer, an electronic device or the internet; and the investigation of which expended specialized law enforcement personnel or materials designed to investigate offenses involving a computer, an electronic device or the internet.

Cybercrimes range from possession of child pornography and cyber-attacks to nonpayment or non-delivery scams.

“If it requires someone who received specialized training or special equipment, then it would be eligible for the fee,” DeProw said. “This includes identity theft and the use of stolen debit cards.”

There were nearly 1,900 instances of internet crime in Arkansas in 2016, from nonpayment scams to cyber-attacks on state agencies, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center revealed that the center received more than 300,000 complaints last year, with reported losses of more than $1.4 billion. The top-three types of cybercrime reported by victims in 2017 were non-payment/non-delivery, personal data breach and phishing.

Last year, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the Cyber Crimes Unit assisted local law enforcement agencies in more than double the number of investigations in 2016 than 2015.They also provided training for law enforcement officers across Arkansas.

“Cyber predators continue to walk our streets and lurk on the internet,” Rutledge said in a 2017 news release. “The number of cybercrimes continues to rise, and these offenses have no geographic, age, race or economic boundaries. But the agents and attorneys in the Cyber Crimes Unit, along with law enforcement across the state, work tirelessly to bring these criminals to justice.”

DeProw said Craighead County recently witnessed a case where the cybercrime fee would have been applied.

“For example in the recent Byron Ford and Dawaun Logan case,” DeProw said. “In that case there is extensive use of phone records through Verizon. That would qualify because it required a special investigation using electronic means.”

Police said they obtained cell tower site information from Jonesboro to Poinsett County that would eventually lead to the arrest of three people for murder.

After the fee is collected by the circuit court it would be deposited into a special cybercrime fee law enforcement fund to be administered by the prosecuting attorney.

“It would be used for training and obtaining equipment to assist in the investigation of cybercrime,” DeProw said.

The statute states the money in the special cybercrime fund wouldn’t be considered a source of revenue to meet a normal operating expense.

DeProw said he isn’t sure when the fee would go into effect, but he hopes sometime this year.


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