Federal and state racketeering laws were designed to weaken or eliminate the control or ownership of criminal enterprises. Additionally, they were created to penalize criminal behavior stemming from these organizations. Federal prosecutors use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.
Mirroring this legislation at the state level is the California Control of Profits of Organized Crime Act. The penalty for violating this law (listed under penal code §186.2), can be jail time and forfeiture of profits. Therefore, being accused of and charged with profiteering is serious. Learn more about this act and how Simmrin Law Group can help you defend against it.
What Is Considered Criminal Profiteering Activity?
Chapter 9 of the California Penal Code defines criminal profiteering as an illegal activity undertaken for financial gain or advantage. It targets explicitly organized crime and repeated activity that demonstrates a pattern instead of individuals or those taking part in isolated events.
State penal code §186.2 lists 34 specific illegal activities that fall under the umbrella of criminal profiteering. You could be charged with criminal profiteering if you seek to profit by committing, attempting, or threatening someone with these actions, which include:
- Grand theft
- Drug trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Money laundering
These crimes are considered “underlying offenses.” As a result, you could face separate criminal charges for the criminal act itself in addition to the criminal profiteering charges.
How Is a Pattern of Criminal Profiteering Activity Defined?
Criminal profiteering charges will only kick in when there is a demonstrated pattern of activity. This means there must be at least two incidences: the current underlying offense and a prior offense for which you were convicted.
To constitute a pattern, these two events must:
- Have occurred within 10 years of each other, not counting periods of incarceration.
- Be connected by common distinguishing characteristics. For example, they may have had the same or similar methods, purposes, results, principals, or victims.
- Not be isolated actions.
- Have been related to organized crime.
California Penal Code §186.2 and Organized Crime
Under penal code §186.2, organized crime refers to conspiratorial and coordinated illegal behavior. By organizing and planning together, the people involved in these criminal enterprises are enabled to:
- Make money by transporting and providing illicit goods and services to the public.
- Profit from other destructive or fraudulent activities against private individuals, businesses, or the United States government.
Organized crime rings are often large-scale and far-reaching enterprises that cross state borders. However, P.C. §186.2 also explicitly includes criminal street gangs under the definition of organized crime, so gang members are also prosecuted under California’s criminal profiteering laws.
What Are the Penalties for Criminal Profiteering?
Laws against organized crime are primarily focused on limiting the financial profits of participants, stopping the flow of money, and deterring future criminal acts. Therefore, California punishes illegal profiteering by seizing property through asset forfeiture.
This doesn’t mean you won’t also face prison or jail time if you are charged with criminal profiteering. Instead, the prosecution will first try you for the underlying offense, with penalties that vary depending on the seriousness of the crime and your prior record.
If you are convicted in your criminal case, the state will then target your possessions and bank accounts through forfeiture. The prosecutor will have to demonstrate one of the following:
- That you obtained these assets through a pattern of criminal activity that resulted in personal financial gain.
- That you received these assets in exchange for other illegally acquired property through a money-laundering operation.
How Do You Defend Against Criminal Profiteering Charges?
California criminal profiteering cases are complex and often face an uphill climb against a zealous Attorney General or district attorney. Moreover, since you will have already been convicted of the underlying charge before these charges can move forward, your options may be relatively limited.
Some potential defensive strategies include:
- Raising reasonable doubt: The burden of proof is on the prosecution to demonstrate that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This strategy seeks to undermine the prosecutor’s case by raising questions about circumstantial evidence and providing contradictory evidence.
- Arguing against a pattern of activity: Even if the state can demonstrate that you are guilty of the underlying and prior crimes, you may argue that the two were not connected.
- Lack of knowledge: In some cases, shared property or bank accounts could be targeted because of criminal activity that occurred without your knowledge. If you were acquitted of the crime, but the government seized your assets, you can file a petition to have liens removed so you can regain possession of your property.
Speak with a Lawyer About Criminal Profiteering Charges
If you are accused of violating California Penal Code §186.2: Criminal Profiteering, it’s crucial to get help as soon as possible.
The professionals at the Simmrin Law Group are here to help you. You can reach us quickly by calling us or filling out our online contact form. Get a FREE case evaluation from our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers today!