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What are the most common federal crimes prosecuted in New York City?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 05:35 pm

The Most Common Federal Crimes Prosecuted in New York City

New York City is known as the city that never sleeps. With over 8 million people packed into 300 square miles, it’s no surprise that some folks end up on the wrong side of the law. Let’s take a look at some of the most common federal crimes that get prosecuted in the Big Apple.

Financial and Corporate Crimes

With Wall Street and tons of major corporations headquartered in NYC, it’s no shocker that financial shenanigans account for a huge chunk of federal prosecutions here. We’re talking insider trading, securities fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, mortgage fraud, tax evasion – the list goes on.These cases often involve bigwig CEOs and financiers who get greedy and cook the books. But they also snag regular employees who give in to temptation. Like that dude who worked in the mailroom at some hedge fund, then sold insider info he saw in envelopes. Dumb move bro!Some of these cases get pretty complicated. The feds dig through mountains of financial records and emails. They gotta call in expert witnesses to explain things to the jury in plain English. Legalese doesn’t fly in the courtroom!


With NYC being such a tech hub, prosecutors here deal with more than their fair share of cyber shenanigans. Hacking, identity theft, computer fraud – you name it. And these cases are only getting more common as more of our lives move online.You got hackers breaking into companies to steal trade secrets. Folks with mad programming skills who create malware to invade systems. And garden variety scammers who steal passwords and credit card numbers to buy stuff online.The victims run the gamut from big banks and retailers to government agencies, universities, and regular joes. And the crimes happen both online and IRL. Like when fraudsters impersonate folks on the phone to get sensitive info. Hello, I’m totally a banker, now give me your social security number!

Drug Trafficking

With busy ports and airports, NYC is a major hub for importing and distributing drugs. The feds are constantly trying to dismantle trafficking rings that bring in cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and other controlled substances.These cases often involve undercover ops, informants, wiretaps, and extensive surveillance. Agents track shipments, follow suspects, and build conspiracy cases by flipping smaller players to get the kingpins.The drugs make their way here from all over – Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan. And local gangs help distribute them on the streets. Prosecutors try to climb the ladder and net the top guys who are raking in the big bucks. But they’ll settle for any arrests that disrupt the flow.

Immigration Crimes

Being a “sanctuary city,” NYC limits cooperation between local cops and immigration authorities. But the feds still prosecute immigration crimes on their own. Mainly folks who reenter the U.S. after being deported, or immigrants who commit crimes.These cases involve sorting out the suspect’s status, immigration history, and criminal record. The feds work with ICE and check fingerprints against immigration databases. But advocates complain this leads to racial profiling and harassment of immigrant communities.Prosecutors often offer plea deals with reduced sentences to get deportations. But the most aggressive charges can carry up to 20 years if the person reentered after committing an “aggravated felony.” Though what counts as “aggravated” is pretty broad…

Firearms Offenses

Despite strict state gun laws, federal prosecutors in NYC deal with a steady flow of firearms cases. Most involve folks barred from having guns due to criminal records or other restrictions. This includes “prohibited persons” like felons, domestic abusers, and folks with mental illness.Cases typically start with an arrest for a state crime like robbery or assault. Then prosecutors dig into the suspect’s background and prior convictions. If they find red flags, they pile on federal charges for the gun violation.Critics say this leads to excessive prosecution of low-level offenses. Like throwing the book at some guy busted with a joint who happened to have a handgun. But officials say the harsh federal charges help get repeat offenders off the streets.

Public Corruption

With so much power and money floating around, New York naturally sees its fair share of corrupt officials. Federal prosecutors here have nabbed countless crooked cops, politicians, and government employees over the years.These cases often involve bribery and kickback schemes. Like officials taking cash to steer contracts or government resources. Or cops on the take from local businesses. Prosecutors rely heavily on cooperating witnesses to expose the rot.High profile targets over the years include congressmen, state legislators, mayors, union bosses, and precinct commanders. Often the feds start with tax charges or false statements before squeezing cooperators to admit to graft.

Civil Rights Violations

Federal prosecutors handle civil rights cases like hate crimes, police brutality, and human trafficking. This includes violence or threats targeting people based on characteristics like race, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.Despite New York’s liberal reputation, hate groups have a presence here. Prosecutors have brought charges against white supremacists, anti-Muslim extremists, and anti-Semitic organizations based in the city.With the NYPD facing constant scrutiny, feds also handle police misconduct cases local DAs might avoid. But critics say they still pull their punches when it comes to prosecuting cops who use excessive force.

Mail and Wire Fraud

Thanks to the overbroad federal mail and wire fraud statutes, prosecutors can turn almost any crime into a federal case. If it involves any use of the postal system or electronic communications, bam – you’re in federal court.These charges get tacked onto all kinds of cases – bribery, embezzlement, investment schemes, government corruption. The idea is that using the mail or wires to further a scheme makes it an interstate commerce issue.But many argue that prosecutors abuse mail/wire fraud charges to stretch federal jurisdiction. For instance, any scam that used the internet could be charged federally. This allows the feds to swoop in on high-profile cases when locals don’t act.

Health Care Fraud

With America’s complex health care system, fraud is rampant, costing tens of billions annually. So federal prosecutors in New York stay busy chasing down scammers who bill for unnecessary procedures, overcharge programs, or bribe providers to refer patients.Common schemes include billing for imaginary patients or services, filing duplicate claims, faking diagnoses to approve expensive treatments, and giving kickbacks for referrals. Crooks also steal patient IDs to submit false bills.Prosecutors rely on data analysis to spot outliers and suspicious patterns. But health care fraud cases require medical expertise to unravel complex schemes and avoid penalizing honest mistakes. Convictions often end in huge financial settlements.

Child Exploitation and Trafficking

Federal prosecutors in New York combat the sexual exploitation of children through pornography, trafficking, and predation. Major cases have targeted child porn rings trading images online and pimps trafficking minors.Investigators use surveillance, informants, and undercover agents to infiltrate underground groups sharing illegal content. Sting operations also help catch predators who show up expecting to meet minors.These cases exploit the anonymity of the internet, where predators assume they can operate unseen. Prosecutors try to pierce that veil and shed light on the victims, who rarely report abuse themselves.

Terrorism and National Security

As a prime target for terrorism, New York sees major cases related to extremist plots and groups. Prosecutors have targeted domestic terrorists as well as international networks seeking to attack the city.Cases have involved Islamic extremists, white supremacists, anti-government radicals, and others using violence to further political or social goals. Charges include material support for terrorism, weapons violations, and conspiracy.Investigations require extensive surveillance, informants, undercover operatives, and cooperation with intelligence agencies. Prosecutors walk a fine line securing convictions while avoiding religious/ethnic profiling.

Environmental Crimes

NYC prosecutors take the lead on environmental cases under federal laws like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and hazardous waste statutes. These include polluting air or water, improper handling of toxic materials, and harming protected lands or species.Targets include manufacturers, power plants, waste handlers, and other industrial operations – both within the city and statewide. Chemical leaks, oil spills, illegal emissions, and improper waste disposal are common violations.Cases rely on scientific experts to assess damage and standards for handling hazardous materials. Companies often pay heavy fines and cleanup costs but avoid jail time for executives. Critics argue penalties are too light to deter future violations.

Bankruptcy Fraud

With Wall Street driving big business bankruptcies, prosecutors here see plenty of fraud in Chapter 11 filings. Dishonest executives cook the books to hide assets from creditors or lie to gain court approval of reorganization plans.Common schemes include undervaluing assets, hiding property transfers, falsely claiming debts, or stashing money under the names of friends and family. Execs also lie to creditors about the company’s finances and prospects.Prosecutors must unwind complex corporate structures and financial transactions to reveal fraud. Cooperators often expose broader schemes to loot companies at the expense of workers and shareholders.

Labor Racketeering

With a huge union presence, New York sees its share of corruption and mob ties in the labor movement. Federal prosecutors target union officials who extort employers, take bribes, or embezzle from pension funds.Cases often involve organized crime exerting control over unions for profit. This includes extorting employers by threatening strikes or violence. Union officials also take kickbacks and stuff ballots to maintain power.Prosecutors rely on cooperators to provide inside information on union corruption. But critics argue federal oversight can be used to undermine unions during labor disputes under the guise of cleaning house.

That’s a Wrap!

Well, that covers some of the most common types of federal cases prosecuted in the Big Apple. Corporate misdeeds, mafia shakedowns, crooked politicians – it’s all in a day’s work for federal prosecutors in New York City.With so many people crammed into such a small space, folks are gonna step on each other’s toes. And the feds are there to keep things somewhat civilized when people cross the line.But over-criminalization is an issue, with too many nonviolent offenses charged as federal crimes nowadays. And mandatory minimum sentences take away judicial discretion. So there’s room for improvement in the justice system for sure.Anyway, stay out of trouble out there readers! And if you do mess up, better call Saul – I mean a good lawyer. Your rights matter, even if you made mistakes. Peace out!

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