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US, Mexican attorneys general follow Mexico trip with invitation for cross-border gang meeting

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SACRAMENTO, California — Attorneys general from five U.S. states have formally invited their Mexican counterparts to participate for the first time in the annual gathering of the top law enforcement officials in the western United States, part of an intensifying effort to combat cross-border gangs.

The Mexican officials were asked to attend the Conference of Western Attorneys General meeting July 20-23 in Park City, Utah, California Attorney General Kamala Harris told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The goal is to help law enforcement officials from both countries combat international criminal organizations' growing sophistication in using technology, she said.

Harris and attorneys general from Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico met with Mexican state and federal prosecutors and bank regulators during a trip to Mexico this week organized by Harris.

She released a report last week outlining how international gangs are increasingly hacking into computer systems and capitalizing on data breaches and computer malware to target businesses and financial institutions. They also are increasingly engaged in digital piracy, a particular concern in the Los Angeles area that produces much of the nation's movies and other mass-market media.

"The cartels have clearly taken full advantage of technology, and we need to match, if not exceed that," Harris said in a telephone interview after she returned to California.

The Utah invitation grew out of an agreement the United States delegation signed this week with the National Banking and Securities Commission of Mexico to fight illegal money-laundering across international boundaries, she said. The agreement calls for more coordinated efforts between U.S. and Mexican state authorities as well as better training and technical assistance in fighting the illegal money transfers.

"These transnational criminal organizations, they don't know any boundaries, and neither should we," Harris said. Aside from cybercrimes, she said authorities from both nations are eager to do more to stem drug- and human trafficking that largely filters into California before flowing across the United States.

Mexican cartels are forming alliances with street and prison gangs in California, making it more important that law enforcement officials also form cross-border alliances, she said.

Portions of the Utah conference will focus not only on how international crooks are using technology, she said, but on how law enforcement can better use technology in response. That means forming partnerships with private companies, particularly in California, that are leading technological innovations, Harris said.

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