What are RICO and COCCA?
When you have been charged with an offense that is related to organized crime in Colorado, you could be sentenced according to federal laws through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) or at a state level pursuant to the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act (COCCA). In many cases, those facing these charges will be sentenced to significant penalties, including substantial fines and prison time, which is why it is essential for you to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. We can help minimize the negative and life-altering consequences you may experience without proper representation. Gaining a better understanding of RICO and COCCA may be beneficial to moving forward with your case.
Understanding the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act
It should be understood that law enforcement agencies file charges under RICO and the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act so that they can impose enhanced penalties on a defendant. This can be devastating when you are already facing serious penalties that include fines and long prison sentences, RICO was first introduced in 1970 by Congress as they worked to make racketeering crimes illegal on a federal level as well as bring attention to “businesses” which were engaging in illegal activity. This continues today in every state, including Colorado.
The COCCA Statute is found at C.R.S. 18-17- 104(3), and states, “It is unlawful for any person employed by, or associated with, any enterprise to knowingly conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in such enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity or by engaging in the collection of an unlawful debt.” The penalties for racketeering based on a COCCA, conviction involve class 2 felonies with extensive fines and prison sentences of 8-24 years. (1)
When a defendant unlawfully participates in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, this could lead to charges under RICO and COCCA, no matter how large or small the enterprise appears is. It is not uncommon for clients working with a law office to suggest that, just because the enterprise they participated in was a small group, it cannot lead to racketeering criminal charges, but in reality the statute only requires that the Defendant participate with one other person to establish the existence of a “criminal enterprise”.
The COCCA law states that there must be a “pattern of racketeering activity” involved in the crime and many clients wonder what this means. It means that there must be at least two criminal acts which can be identified by the prosecutor, both of which must have happened within ten years of the indictment. These acts can include such charges as offenses against a person (like murder and kidnapping), offenses against property, computer crimes, offenses against a family relations, offenses related to firearms or almost any other crime listed in the state or federal statutes.
What Separates COCCA and Drug Conspiracy Cases?
COCCA cases and conspiracy cases are not one in the same, but they are uniquely related in many ways. COCCA cases are always conspiracy cases, but not all conspiracies qualify for a COCCA designation. The factors which trigger a COCCA prosecution revolve around the number of people participating in the criminal enterprise and whether or not the conspirators are working toward a common goal. It is also a requirement that the prosecution be able to identify at least two overt acts.
Could I Potentially Face a Civil Suit?
In certain racketeering cases there is an allegation of an attempt to collect a debt in an unlawful manner. In these types of cases, a client could face criminal charges as well as civil penalties. The person who is referred to as the “victim” in the criminal case would be the plaintiff in the civil case.
What We Can do for You
If you have been involved in a racketeering case in Colorado and are concerned that either RICO or the Colorado Organized Crime Control Act will be used by the prosecutor, it is imperative that you have experienced legal counsel to help you avoid prison time, forfeiture of assets and civil damages. Contact us at the Moorhead Law Group today to learn how we can help you and get started on your case immediately.