Maryland police have made numerous arrests in connection with what appears to be a real-life mob operation, and racketeering charges are now pending against numerous members of the gang.
Real Life Gang Story
Police allege that the gang, known as MMP, controlled numerous streets and neighborhoods in Baltimore, engaging in a drug trafficking ring. The indictment alleges that the group managed “shops,” where they would distribute illegal drugs. One such shot is believed to be a BP gas station.
The police also allege that the group would actually shut down and seize people’s businesses in order to use them as shops to traffic in the narcotics. The group is believed to be responsible for up to 24 shootings.
Like in the movies, the indictment alleges that members would undergo an initiation ceremony, would pay dues to the group, and the group would award members who engage in violence against rival gangs.
New Racketeering Laws
Maryland only recently passed a sweeping crime reform bill. Part of that bill was the strengthening of Maryland’s racketeering laws, (sometimes called RICO laws), which are modeled after the federal RICO laws. The change was made to allow law enforcement to pursue drug dealers under these laws.
RICO laws are designed to allow law enforcement to bring charges against all members of organizations that engage in criminal activity. Large, complex criminal enterprises can often very much resemble a legitimate business in structure, size, and bureaucracy.
That often means that “middle managers,” or those higher on the totem pole, may not be aware of the day to day operation of the organization. Because of that, many have tried to use the “plausible denial” defense—in other words, because they were not directly involved in the actual crime (selling of drugs or a robbery or killing), and may not have even known about it, they can not be held criminally responsible. Larger crime bosses would use layers of bureaucracy to insulate themselves from the knowledge necessary to be charged with a crime.
But RICO laws change all that, and allow anybody in the group to be charged, regardless of actual knowledge of a specific crime.
RICO Can Reach Legitimate Businesses
RICO laws also prevent shielding illegal enterprises with legal ones. For example, using an otherwise legitimate bar or laundromat as a front to hide assets or as a base to conduct illegal operations.
Like many large legitimate businesses, the criminal organization may use third party contractors or vendors who may not even be aware of the criminal enterprise. An example might be a company that provides liquor to the bar that is a front for an illegal enterprise. While there may not be direct RICO liability for these outside contractors, they still can have assets seized and liquidated by the government.
If you have been arrested or being charged with a crime, make sure that the state can prove all the elements of its case against you. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case.