An East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury recently handed down indictments of 26 people in an alleged drug ring. Of those 26 people, several face charges of drug possession or weapons charges, but 15 face charges of racketeering. If convicted, a defendant can be sentenced to up to 50 years on a racketeering charge alone.
Prosecutors described those indicted as mid-level dealers in a drug ring. Prosecutors were attempting to seize their bank accounts as the investigation continued.
Racketeering charges arise when prosecutors accuse the defendants of engaging in an organized illegal business, commonly called a "racket." Racketeering charges were first developed in the 1970s for use against organized crime syndicates. In the past, prosecutors had difficulty winning convictions against those higher up in organized crime rings because they often could not prove that the individual had personally committed the crimes. However, the racketeering charge allows prosecutors to convict anyone who owns or manages an organization that regularly performs one or more specific illegal action.
Prosecutors now use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or the RICO law, to press charges against a wide variety of organizations. Prosecutors have even used it against church leaders in cases involving the alleged cover-up of child molestations.
While major players in drug rings do sometimes get arrested and sent to jail, many Louisiana residents caught up in large drug investigations are quite far down in the chain of distribution. These individuals often face serious drug charges that pack extreme penalties. An experienced defense attorney can help the accused to understand their options and pick the best course for a defense. In some cases the accused can reduce charges through enrollment in a drug diversion program. In others, the best course of action is to fight the charges head-on.
Source: The Advocate, "Grand jury indicts 26 on drug-related charges," Joe Gyan Jr., Oct. 31, 2013