Criminal Defense Lawyers in Your City
Our criminal defense attorneys have experience defending RICO prosecution for drug charges and stand ready to help you or your loved ones if you are ever investigated for, or charged with, RICO drug crimes.
We help our clients deal with government investigations for RICO drug charges and ensure they receive the strongest possible defense.
If you or a loved one has been charged with RICO drug crimes, call us now.
What Does “RICO” Stand For?
RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
What Does the RICO Act Govern?
The RICO Act is a federal law that is designed to combat organized crime in the United States. It allows for the prosecution of individuals who have committed racketeering activity as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise with others. Among the possible crimes that are covered by the RICO Act are drug trafficking charges.
What is “Drug Trafficking?”
Drug trafficking is the crime of selling, transporting, or illegally importing unlawful controlled substances, such as methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy, or other illegal drugs.
Individuals may also be charged with the illegal sale or transportation of prescription drugs without valid prescriptions or authority to distribute.
The movement or sale of otherwise street-legal drugs such as Xanax, Hydrocodone, and Adderall may still fall within the scope of drug trafficking if they are moved or sold without legal authority to do so.
What puts a person at risk of being prosecuted for “drug trafficking” under the RICO Act?
The RICO Act may be used to prosecute individuals how have trafficked or sold illegal drugs in the United States, as well as those who have illegally imported them for sale from foreign countries. Those that import drugs from abroad to sell illegally in the United States may also face additional penalties for smuggling.
Prosecutors May Charge You With Multiple Crimes Under the RICO Act
Drug trafficking charges are only one of the many crimes that fall within the scope of the RICO Act. It is important to note that individuals may be charged with several crimes under the RICO Act and that prosecutors are not limited to only one charge.
If any member of the conspiracy has engaged in other criminal acts such as homicide, money laundering, extortion, and wire fraud, all members of the criminal enterprise may be charged with those offenses.
Due to the joint nature of RICO Act prosecutions, any association with a criminal enterprise and participation in any element of illegal activity committed by that enterprise may be enough to place a person at risk of being prosecuted for drug trafficking under the RICO Act.
What are the specific federal laws related to RICO Act drug trafficking charges?
The RICO Act as put into law applies to any “racketeering activity” under 18 U.S.C.§ 1961. The RICO Act in relation to drug crimes applies to any dealing in controlled substances as defined in the Controlled Substances Act.
What is the Controlled Substances Act?
The Controlled Substances Act schedule is a very expansive list of drugs and narcotics that are controlled and which may only be distrusted by licensed pharmacists with valid prescriptions from authorized physicians or which may not be distributed under any circumstance.
The list of drugs on the Controlled Substances Act includes opiates, opium derivatives, hallucinogenic substances, and steroids along with many other substances. The list also includes substances that are not listed but which are chemically similar to other controlled substances. This means that while synthetic drugs may not be specifically listed the sale of those drugs would still fall within the scope of the RICO Act.
RICO and the Medical Industry
Understanding the implications of the RICO Act is particularly important for individuals in the medical industry. A pharmacist who is legally licensed to sell drugs through legitimate avenues but who criminally conspires with others to move and sell drugs illegally would be subject to prosecution under the act for RICO Act drug trafficking charges.
It is also important to note that the RICO Act also provides for civil penalties in addition to any criminal penalties. These civil penalties may result in the seizure of funds and tools that were used in the illegal criminal enterprise.
Criminal Convictions Can Be Used As Evidence At Civil Trial
The Attorney General’s office may bring civil charges and any criminal conviction under the RICO Act may be used as evidence at trial for the civil charges.
Related Crimes – “Racketeering”
The RICO ACT as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1961 applies to any “racketeering activity.” The definition of racketeering activity applies not only to drug trafficking but also to several other crimes that are codified in the United States Code.
These crimes include among others:
- Acts or threats of murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, or extortion chargeable under State Law and punishable for more than one year.
- Theft from interstate shipments
- Fraud in relation to identification documents
- Fraud in connection with access devices
- Mail fraud
- Wire fraud
- Obstruction of justice
- Obstruction of criminal investigations
Many crimes that are included as racketeering activities under the RICO Act may occur within the same criminal conspiracy.
A criminal gang that is selling illegal narcotics may use false documents and access devices to conduct theft from an interstate shipment of pharmaceuticals. They could then engage in the obstruction of justice and obstruction of criminal investigations while seeking to conceal their conspiracy.
As shown above, it would be very easy for members of a criminal enterprise to engage in numerous crimes that fall within the scope of the RICO Act while furthering their criminal conspiracy.
RICO Act Cases Involving Drugs
There have been a number of big RICO Act cases that have involved drug charges over the last few years.
- The “Ride or Die” Gang. In one such case, US Attorneys prosecuted members of the “Ride or Die” gang for violating the RICO Act and participating in racketeering through drug conspiracy, firearms conspiracy, and murder charges. Two members of the gang were ultimately sentenced to life in prison. Other members of the conspiracy who plead guilty to various charges received sentences ranging from 48 months incarceration to 121 months incarceration.
- 105 Individuals Indicted. In another case, 105 individuals were indicted for violating the RICO Act with racketeering, drug trafficking, drive-by shooting murders, and related firearm offenses. In the indictment, 35 leaders were charged, as well as 25 enforcers, eight suppliers, 11 runners, 25 sellers, and one drug processor.
These two cases show the versatility of the RICO Act as it can be used in relation to drug offenses. Over 100 individuals were charged in one case, and in the other case, individuals received life sentences.
Neither of these cases is especially unique, but they are both indicative of the wide scope prosecutors have in charging individuals accused of drug trafficking under the RICO Act.
The cases also demonstrate the number of related charges that may also be brought in RICO Act cases. Each different charge has an effect on the necessary defense strategy for an individual case and brings with it its own complications. It is, therefore, necessary to ensure that you choose a defense attorney skilled in defending RICO Act charges.
Who investigates and prosecutes drug crimes under the RICO Act?
Investigations for drug crimes under the RICO Act and prosecutions for any violations are conducted by the Attorney General’s office.
Because the RICO Act has a broad scope and applies to a list of 35 crimes (27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes, including drug trafficking charges) and involve numerous participants, U.S. Attorneys seeking an indictment may collect information from a variety of sources.
Whistleblowers may play into the prosecution as may participants in the conspiracy who have chosen to assist the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the case in order to seek a better deal for themselves.
Collaborating with State and Local Authorities
The U.S. Attorneys prosecuting the crimes will likely collaborate with local state authorities. The RICO Act covers 8 crimes that fall under state law and often involve multi-state conspiracies or even international conspiracies for drug trafficking.
Therefore, the corporation of government agencies, prosecutors, and law enforcement across jurisdictions is key to the prosecution of drug crimes under the RICO Act.
Individuals who violate Drug Trafficking Laws and who are charged under the RICO Act may face anywhere from three to 25 years in prison and fines of up to over a half a million dollars depending on the type of drug that is being trafficked and if any “enhancement” penalties are added.
Things such as selling drugs in the vicinity of a school or playground can increase penalties severely.
There is no set maximum fine or period of incarceration that an individual convicted under the act may face because RICO Act prosecutions generally involve numerous crimes with stacking sentences.
Furthermore, because of the civil penalties under the RICO Act, individuals convicted may have any illicitly gained profits and tools used in furtherance of the conspiracy seized.
What are some defenses to drug crimes under the RICO Act?
In order to successfully prosecute drug crimes under the RICO Act, a prosecutor must prove that an accused individual has violated all elements of the charged drug crime under the United States Code and the Controlled Substances Act.
Good defense attorneys understand how to successfully defend against such drug crime charges by attacking certain elements of the statute and using affirmative defenses such as duress to improve their client’s situation.
- Someone who was coerced through violence to sell or traffic drugs may well receive a much lighter sentence than someone who did so uncoerced.
- “Drug mules” who are forced to bring drugs across international borders and state lines have some legal protections that help lessen their criminal liability for violating the law if their actions were forced by violence or threats of violence.
Defending any RICO Act charge requires a well thought out defense strategy as the prosecution often involves numerous criminal charges and the consequences of a conviction can be incredibly severe.
Why would I need an attorney if I am charged with a drug crime under the RICO Act?
Anyone who has been charged with a drug crime under the RICO Act or who has had a family member charged under the Act should contact a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Defending against a RICO Act charge requires an attorney to consider the may possible additional crimes with which an individual may be charged.
Do Not Answer Questions Without Speaking to Your Attorney
Because individuals charged under the RICO Act may also be found guilty for crimes in which they did not directly participate but which occurred as part of the criminal conspiracy in which they were involved having a skilled attorney to handle negotiation and communication with the investigators is important.
You Have The Right to Remain Silent
It is also important to never speak to any investigators or authorities without having first spoken with a skilled attorney as the consequences of a conviction under the RICO Act for drug charges can be incredibly severe.
If you or a loved one have been charged with a drug crime under the RICO Act, do not hesitate to contact our firm for assistance in defending against these serious charges.
RICO Act “Drug Crimes” in the News
Article #1: LRGP Member Sentenced On Rico And Drug Charges.
Charge: Multiple Charges under the RICO Act.
Allegations: Drug Trafficking, Murder, and Other Charges Under the RICO Act.
In 2016, Gregory Scott, his cousin Dewayne Gray, and other members of the LRGP Gang were convicted of dealing crack cocaine and engaging in numerous acts of violence including shootings and murders as part of their racketeering activity.
According to the DOJ press release, 19 defendants including Dewayne Gray were convicted in the case.
The sentencing was a result of an investigation by many state and federal agencies, including:
- Federal Bureau of Investigation Safe Streets Task Force.
- Drug Enforcement Administration, New York Field Office.
- Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, New York Field Office.
- Buffalo Police Department.
Article #2: U.S. Attorney’s Office indicts 9 members of ‘Block Boyz’ gang on RICO offenses, drug and firearm conspiracies.
Charge: RICO offenses, and drug and firearm conspiracies.
Allegations: Drug Trafficking, Murder, and Other Charges Under the RICO Act.
In 2017, nine members of the “Block Boyz” gang were indicted on drug and firearm conspiracies under the RICO Act. The indictment had in total 18 counts and 66 acts that members of the organization committed to further the RICO conspiracy.
According to the DOJ press release, the “Block Boyz” was a criminal organization that distributed controlled substances, murdered, robbed, possessed firearms illegally and conducted other crimes within the Queensborough and Ingleside neighborhoods of Shreveport.
The defendants in the case face various penalties which vary depending upon their role in the conspiracy and their criminal history. Some defendants face up to 20 years in prison, and others face up to 40 years in prison. The defendants also face fines of up to $5 million each and forfeiture of all property seized in the case.
Article #3: 105 Individuals Indicted for Violating the RICO Act in Puerto Rico.
Charge: Racketeering, Drug Trafficking, Drive-By Shooting Murders and Related Firearm Offenses.
Allegations: Drug Trafficking, Murder, and Other Charges Under the RICO Act.
In 2015, a nine-count federal indictment was unsealed that charged 105 defendants with racketeering, drug trafficking, drive-by shooting murders and related firearm offenses under the RICO Act.
According to the DOJ press release, members of the “La Rompe ONU” gang would sell crack, cocaine heroin, and marijuana in public housing projects and used violence and intimidation, including murder, to increase the power, territory, and profits of their organization.
Members of the gang who were indicted ranged from leaders to sellers, runners, and one drug processor. Thirty-two firearms were seized from the defendants during the investigation, and they face forfeiture of $82 million in alleged illegal proceeds.
Looking for a RICO Drug Crime Attorney? – Call Us Now
Charges of violating the RICO Act for drug crimes can have a devastating impact on your family, your reputation, your liberty, and your future.
That is why you need an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Our attorneys understand the RICO Act and can help you understand the drug charges that are being brought against you or your loved one. We can accompany you to interrogations and ensure that your rights are not violated. Ultimately, our goal is to help you establish a legitimate defense.
We have the knowledge and background to successfully defend anyone prosecuted for drug crimes under the RICO Act against both the criminal and civil penalties they may face.
We have numerous individuals charged with violating the RICO Act for drug charges in the past and would love to help assist you in your case.
If you or someone you love has been charged with drug crimes under the RICO Act, call our attorneys for a free legal consultation.