Ex-prosecutor explains how RICO can be used against gangs

The federal law was enacted in 1970 to eliminate organized crime groups. The federal law was enacted in 1970 to eliminate organized crime groups.
WOODBURY -

A former prosecutor spoke with News 12 about how the federal RICO Act statute can be used against gangs such as MS-13.

RICO stands for racketeer influenced and corrupt organization. The federal law was enacted in 1970 to eliminate organized crime groups, such as the Gambino crime family. But the statute's wording is broad enough to capture other criminals such as gang members.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions mentioned that he would use RICO when dealing with MS-13 while he was in Central Islip on Friday.

Former Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney William Ferris says the RICO Act is powerful because it casts a wide net to take down organized criminal gangs. A person can be charged under RICO even if that person did not directly commit the crime -- but only agreed to the commission of the crime with the perpetrators in any way.

"It is also used to show a conspiracy for the members of this enterprise in terms of furthering the purposes of the enterprise," Ferris says. He adds that the government must prove two offenses in order to bring prosecution.

Offenses covered by the RICO Act include bribery, kidnapping, money laundering, embezzlement, drug trafficking, prostitution and murder.

Under the RICO statute, guilty verdicts can result in life sentences for crimes, such as murder. The RICO Act has been used across the country to take down the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and the Mexican mafia.

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