Nearly 50 people have been caught in a net that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation called “Operation Taking Care of Business.” The 11-month drug trafficking investigation has resulted in extensive charges that involve both weapons, drugs and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.
What’s the RICO Act? Essentially, it’s a powerful tool that prosecutors can use under federal law to bring extended criminal and civil penalties against those convicted of being part of organized crime. While many people associate RICO violations with the mafia (against which it was intended), the RICO Act is frequently used these days against drug trafficking organizations. Even low-level members of an organization, however, can find themselves facing enhanced penalties through the RICO Act.
Crimes covered in the RICO Act are also addressed under many state’s laws. In Georgia, the law outlines the following ways that you can be guilty of racketeering:
- Directly or indirectly acquiring or maintaining any kind of control over or interest in an enterprise, including real estate, personal property or money through a pattern of racketeering activity
- Conducting or participating in an enterprise (directly or indirectly) through a pattern of racketeering while employed by or associated with that enterprise
- Conspiring or otherwise endeavoring to do any of the above activities with another person or persons (even if you aren’t successful)
Georgia prosecutors enjoy broad latitude in how they apply RICO charges under this statute, so you can find yourself charged with racketeering relatively easily if you’re suspected of dealing drugs. If that happens, make sure that you get an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.