There are plenty of federal laws that are used by states to either coordinate charges or to pursue a case against groups that might otherwise be difficult to prosecute for a variety of reasons. While laws can vary greatly from state to state, some like the RICO Law tend to be somewhat uniform across state lines both in terms of application as well as penalties.
RICO stands for “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.” This was passed by Congress to become federal law in 1970. The main intention was to go after organized crime. This wasn’t just mafia but was a way to pursue multiple gangs, criminal organizations, drug cartels, and even large white-collar criminal operations that operate across multiple state lines and might otherwise be difficult to prosecute.
RICO is the specific law that allows law enforcement to go after criminals who order others to commit the actual criminal act. Previously only those individuals at the bottom could be prosecuted but the adoption of this law meant that someone pulling the strings was now just as guilty.
Originally RICO was used to go after mafia bosses. Being able to go after mafia bosses on the basis of racketeering allowed successful prosecution of a wide variety of criminals who had previously hidden behind their own organization. Over time RICO proved effective in going after other groups, as well. Recent cases from South Carolina & Virginia in the past few years actually highlight this fact.
In 2017, there were 20 members of the “Cowboy Gang” that were brought up on RICO charges in South Carolina and convicted. This was a gang that formed in Walterboro and had a very distinctive hierarchy. This led to ordered robberies, assault, shooting, and more. In fact, Dashawn Trevell Brown was sentenced to 20 years in prison specifically using RICO laws to tie back an ordered shooting to him. While other members of the Cowboy Gang committed the actual shooting, his ordering of the crime allowed the state to go after him via South Carolina RICO laws.
The penalties for RICO-related charges can vary greatly in South Carolina with the penalty length partially dependent on what crime was ordered.
In 2016, a major series of arrests took place based on RICO. 20 total people were charged in New York state and the state of Virginia, all related to the Mad Stone Bloods (MSB) street gang. Those convicted were not just gang members but also former correctional officers. The indictment listed a wide array of crimes that are covered under the RICO act that ranged from shootings to robbery to fraud and trafficking of illegal goods. The widespread net wouldn’t have been possible without the use of the RICO statutes.
Anyone finding themselves caught up in RICO charges or cases definitely needs an experienced and passionate attorney on their side. These are very serious criminal charges and RICO law cases tend to be really interesting to watch from the outside, but if you find yourself in the middle of one then it’s time to get legal representation post haste.