What Is Organized Crime?

You’ve probably heard of organized crime before, but what do you really know about it? What crimes fall under this umbrella term? Who commits organized crimes? And how are these crimes investigated and prosecuted? Let the legal defense experts at The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot help you better understand these crimes and how the legal system addresses them. 

What is the definition of organized crime?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, organized crime — particularly transnational organized crime — is described as individuals, groups, clans, and/or networks who intentionally commit illegal acts including cyber crimes; money laundering; human, arms, and drug trafficking; counterfeiting; illegal gambling; and extortion; among many other crimes in an effort enrich themselves, gain influence, be it local, international, or political, and obtain power. 

You’ll often hear the terms “criminal organization” and “criminal enterprise” used interchangeably, but federal statutes mandate that strict requirements must be met in order to charge entities with criminal enterprise-related offenses. 

For example, Title 18 — the main criminal code of the US Federal Government — defines an enterprise as “any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity” whereas Title 21 — The Continuing Criminal Enterprise statute — states that a criminal enterprise is “any group of six or more people, where one of the six occupies a position of organizer, a supervisory position, or any other position of management with respect to the other five, and which generates substantial income or resources, and is engaged in a continuing series of violations of subchapters I and II of Chapter 13 of Title 21 of the United States Code.”

Point being, as complicated as the arrangements of criminal organizations can be, so are the jobs of state and federal prosecutors and law enforcement in their ability to bring such charges against the accused and it is just one of the reasons why it is often so difficult for them to bring charges against alleged mafia organizations. The burden of proof is high, and these syndicates aren’t in the business of doing the authorities any favors. 

Organized crime is insular but far-reaching

These organizations are intentionally difficult to penetrate, especially as you go higher up the hierarchy, and are able to protect themselves through organizational structures that consolidate power through violence, intimidation, and corruption. This inaccessibility is by design, in an effort to elude law enforcement, sow misunderstanding regarding how the organization operates, and protect its higher ups from legal vulnerability. 

It is not unusual for legitimate businesses, both knowingly and unknowingly or through coercive tactics, to be compromised by the actions of organized criminals. Even governments can be infiltrated or negatively affected by organized crime-related activities, due to the vast sums of money that can be moved by these corrupt organizations.  

How the internet has changed organized crime

The advent of the digital age has only increased organized crime’s ability to commit self-enriching illegal acts. Advances in technology have broadened the activities that law enforcement must watch for, including phishing scams and other cyber crimes related to malware and debit or credit card fraud. 

Though illegal gambling has long been central means of siphoning money to organized crime syndicates, online gambing has broadened its reach while also making the detection and prevention of these crimes more difficult for law enforcement, given that offshore servers and other advanced techniques can be used to hide the activities, or making those activities undetectable until it is too late. 

Organized crime is a national security threat

Law enforcement is particularly concerned with the ongoing threat to national security that transnational organized crime can cause. The FBI cites threats to public health and safety, such as those caused by counterfeit pharmaceuticals, and the potential corruption of public officials that leads to the erosion of democratic institutions as just a few of matters they face when dealing with organized crime. 

It should also be made clear that most criminal organizations don’t necessarily specialize in one type of crime. Most, in order to diversify their sources of revenue, broaden their sphere of influence, and further complicate the intricacies of their internal structures, commit a series of different crimes to enrich themselves. 

Organized crime includes what is called “racketeering”

Racketeering, or the illegal acquisition or operation of a business with illegal funds, is a state and federal criminal category that encompasses a large variety of crimes, including muder for hire, bribery, and the sexual exploitation of children at the federal level and arson, fencing, kidnapping extortion, and more at the state level.  

Historically, one of the arenas hardest hit by racketing were labor unions, where organized criminals extorted money from contractors and companies while also exerting their power and influence in these realms.

Though these are the most commonly known sorts of racketeering-related activities and have been written about or dramatized in television or movies several times over the last many decades, corporations can also participate in acts of racketeering, such as when a manufacturer of drugs offers incentives to doctors for prescribing their drugs over others.  

Accusations of organized crime-related activity are very serious

As is the case when anyone is accused of a crime, getting the best-possible legal defense is key in protecting your constitutional rights. It’s especially imperative that one is charged with a crime that they respect law enforcement while not jeopardizing the defense of their freedom in the process. 

For nearly 50 years, the Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot have excelled in protecting the rights of the accused by building deep relationships with and effective defense strategies for their clients. 

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