Mimesis Law
25 March 2017

NYPD Give Far Too Much Credit To The Pop Out Boyz

June 3, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — It turns out that the Brooklyn-based rap collective called the “Pop Out Boyz” based at least some of their lyrics on crimes they actually committed:

Pop Out Boyz, a rap collective from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, took their lyrics from real life when they released a single this spring all about the material rewards of a crime not often mentioned in urban pop music — credit card fraud, prosecutors said.

The song, titled “For a Scammer,” was rooted in experience, the prosecutors said. Members of the group and their associates have been indicted in Manhattan on grand larceny charges, accused of stealing more than $250,000 worth of luxury goods from Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue over the last year.

The song’s chorus boasts, “I’m cracking cards ’cause I’m a scammer,” using a street term for card fraud. At one point, one of the vocalists raps, “Watch the money do a back flip, early morning up at Saks Fifth, you see it, you want it, you have it.”

If you’re trying to build street cred with criminal activity, credit card fraud isn’t an obvious choice. It certainly isn’t going to show how tough you are, especially considering how their credit card fraud in particular worked:

The case reflects a broader trend in New York City, the Manhattan district attorney’s office said. As street crime and drug dealing have declined over the last two decades, there has been a surge in identity theft and credit card fraud, and these crimes are increasingly being committed by relatively unsophisticated young adults from working-class homes, the police and prosecutors said.

“Credit card fraud in Brooklyn is becoming a big issue,” said Capt. Christopher Flanagan, the commander of the Financial Crimes Task Force for the New York Police Department. “The cards are easier to get now with the development of some of these dark websites, and as one person learns how to commit a fraud, they spread that knowledge to others.”

Basically, there are these “dark websites” where you can buy credit card numbers. The sites do all the complicated work, like getting the numbers in the first place. You just log on, pay for them, and do whatever it you want to with them. For the Pop Out Boyz, that meant spending a whole bunch of money at Saks and Barneys and then rapping about it.

On one hand, you have a very sophisticated organization running complicated websites that sell stolen data. In some cases, they’ve even created a searchable database of what they’ve stolen, letting the user pick a stolen credit card number based on certain criteria, like credit limit or even how long it’s been since it was stolen. These dark websites are clearly run by some very smart people. Not only is it impressive that they’re tech savvy enough to create a functional website and avoid detection, but they show some business savvy too, as they apparently offer loyalty programs, frequent-buyer discounts, and money-back guarantees.

That couldn’t be more different from the Pop Out Boyz, who really just log on and pay for the illegal fruits of someone else’s illegal labor. On top of that, despite stealing a quarter of a million dollars, it seems some of them still live with their parents:

Most of the people in the group of 39, many of whom were arrested on April 26, were in their late teens and early 20s. One of the directors of the group, the prosecutors said, was Anthony McKoy, 21, who raps under the name Ant Stay Maccin. A high school graduate, he lives with his parents on Throop Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant. His mother works for Gap, his father for a trucking company.

It’s by calling McKoy a “director” that prosecutors begin to fall into the classic prosecutor trap of overestimating the people they’ve charged. They clearly want to paint McKoy as a big fish:

But prosecutors said he played a key role, supplying stolen card numbers to others, manufacturing cards and even making $4,000 in purchases at Barneys and Saks himself. An embosser and encoding machine were found in his home, along with a gun, prosecutors said.

It’s hard to say why prosecutors tend to make people out to be a lot more sophisticated than they are, but it’s a near-universal habit even among those who should know better.

Everything about this situation points to McKoy, a young man who’s just old enough to drink, and the others being nothing more than opportunistic young adults. At worst, McKoy got some numbers off of a website, gave some numbers to the others, made some credit cards with some relatively simple machines, bought some stupid consumer goods he didn’t need so he could look cool, bought a gun to look tough, and then posed with a bunch of cash and rapped about his crimes despite still living at home with mom and dad. Considering that the song he and his buddies wrote about their crimes gives prosecutors their case on a platter, making any of them out to be anything more than a bunch of greedy young idiots with an internet connection is more than a little misleading.

At least the cop in charge of the “Special Fraud Squad” in Brooklyn offers a reasonable perspective about all of this:

They have been downloading movies and music since they were 10 years old, so it’s not much of a leap to download credit card numbers.

There are some really bad people up to no good out there. There are some serious criminal enterprises out there too, and they go to great lengths to commit their crimes and avoid detection. Those are probably the sorts of people who enabled the Pop Out Boyz to, as that cop explained, download credit card numbers just like how they’ve downloaded movies and music for years. The Pop Out Boyz themselves, on the other hand, do not fit that bill by any stretch of the imagination.

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