The Colorado Organized Crime Act prohibits a number of criminal activities aimed at members of criminal enterprises. It prohibits racketeering activity, which generally includes crimes committed by gangs or organized crime. Racketeering is a class 2 felony, with penalties including up to 24 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines. In this article, our Colorado criminal defense lawyers will address:
- 1. What is the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act?
- 2. What are prohibited activities?
- 3. What is racketeering?
- 4. What are the penalties for racketeering?
- 5. Is racketeering a federal offense?
- 6. What are defenses to racketeering charges?
- 7. Related Offenses
1. What is the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act?
The Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA) is a set of statutes which prohibit the types of criminal activity engaged in by organized crime and other criminal enterprises. This includes
- fencing stolen property,
- drug distribution, and
- other forms of social exploitation.
The COCCA prohibits a number of specified racketeering activities.
The purpose of the COCCA is to “seek the eradication of organized crime in this state by strengthening the legal tools in the evidence-gathering process, by establishing new penal prohibitions, and by providing enhanced sanctions and new remedies to deal with the unlawful activities of those engaged in organized crime.”1
2. What are prohibited activities?
Under C.R.S. 18-17-104, the COCCA specifies a number of prohibited activities. In general, any participation in racketeering activity is prohibited. It is unlawful for any person to:
- Knowingly receive or derive proceeds from a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt;
- Through a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt, to knowingly acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise or real property;
- To knowingly conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in any enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity or the collection of an unlawful debt; or
- Conspire or endeavor to violate any of these racketeering provisions.
3. What is racketeering?
Racketeering refers to a number of criminal activities specified under state and federal law. A “pattern of racketeering activity,” means engaging in at least two of the specified racketeering activities within 10 years.2 This includes state and federal criminal acts.3 The Colorado criminal acts that are considered racketeering activities include:
- Criminal extortion
- Human trafficking
- Aggravated motor vehicle theft
- Criminal mischief
- Computer crimes
- Felony charitable fraud
- Money laundering
- Bribery in sports
- Criminal impersonation
- Credit card fraud
- Identity theft
- Sexual exploitation of children
- Attempt to influence a public servant
- Intimidating a juror
- Tampering with a witness or victim
- Possessing an illegal weapon or a dangerous weapon
- Extortionate extension of credit
- Securities offenses
- Drug crimes
4. What are the penalties for racketeering?
Any person convicted of engaging in prohibited racketeering activity commits a class 2 felony. The penalties for a class 2 felony in Colorado include 8 to 24 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 to $1 million. There is also a mandatory 5 year parole period for class 2 felonies. If the defendant has already been convicted of a felony, he or she will be ineligible to get a fine instead of incarceration.
In addition to prison and fines, anyone convicted of racketeering will have to forfeit to the state any interest they have acquired in violation of the state racketeering laws. A racketeering conviction may also make the defendant liable for three times the value of any property damage or loss caused.4
5. Is racketeering a federal offense?
In addition to Colorado criminal charges, racketeering and organized crime activity may lead to federal criminal charges. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), is a federal law that is aimed at organized crime activity. Under RICO, it is unlawful to:
- Invest proceeds obtained from racketeering;
- Acquire an interest in a racketeering enterprise; or
- Participate in an enterprise carrying out racketeering.5
If an individual is part of a criminal enterprise that has committed at least two of 35 specified crimes within a 10-year period, they may be convicted under RICO in federal court.
RICO charges can include a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison for each count. If the criminal enterprise is engaged in a racketeering activity that carries life imprisonment, such as murder, the penalties can be increased to life in prison. In addition, a defendant faces fines, restitution, and possible civil liability.
6. What are defenses to racketeering charges?
There may be a number of possible legal defenses to Colorado racketeering charges. This includes:
- The racketeering activities are not related
- There was no continuous racketeering activity
- There was no criminal enterprise
- Police misconduct in the investigation
- Lack of criminal intent
- False identification
7. Related Offenses
Racketeering may be related to a number of other organized crime offenses. This includes money laundering, bribery, and extortion. Organized crime may also involve drug offenses, prostitution, gambling, weapons charges, assault, murder, and conspiracy charges.
7.1. Money Laundering C.R.S. 18-5-309
Under Colorado law, money laundering involves moving money around to try and evade the government’s ability to track the source of the funds. Money laundering may be used to hide money that was embezzled from an employer. Money laundering is a class 3 felony, and the penalties include 4 to 12 years in prison and fines of up to $750,000.
7.2. Extortion C.R.S. 18-3-207
Criminal extortion in Colorado is threatening someone in order to get that person or another to do something, or refrain from doing something, against their will. Extortion is commonly called “blackmail.” Extortion is a class 4 felony. Penalties include 2 to 6 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
7.3. Bribery C.R.S. 18-8-302
In Colorado, offering money or other benefits to a public official to influence their actions is bribery. Offering a bribe or asking for a bribe is a felony. The penalties for bribery of a public official includes up to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000.
Call us for help…
If you were charged with racketeering or are being investigated for organized crime offenses, please contact us at Colorado Legal Defense Group.
- C.R.S. 18-17-102
- C.R.S. 18-17-103(3)
- C.R.S. 18-17-103(5)
- C.R.S. 18-17-105
- 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968