RICO

User rottenhombre / youtube.com

Update 12:53 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) -Federal prosecutors say they have a "staggering amount of evidence" to convict dozens of members of a Detroit-area motorcycle gang, who are accused of a violent criminal enterprise.

The government says more than dozen current or former members of the Devils Diciples are cooperating with the FBI and ready to testify at trial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin made the disclosure this week in a court filing that seeks to keep the group's president in custody while awaiting trial.

Mohsin says Jeff "Fat Dog" Smith is responsible for an "interstate ... rampage of drugs, violence" and other crimes. He faces a detention hearing Tuesday in Detroit federal court. A message seeking comment was left for his attorney today.

July 14, 4:10 p.m.

Forty-one members and associates of a Michigan based motorcycle club face a wide-ranging federal indictment.

The allegations in the indictment announced today include murder, illegal gambling and drug trafficking.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

Prosecutors have dubbed the five men accused of pocketing millions of dollars in exchange for contracts with the city of Detroit the "Kilpatrick Enterprise."

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted in federal court today, along with Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.

Dave Hogg / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's office released this statement regarding the RICO indictments of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Victor Mercado, former director of the city Water and Sewerage Department, and 3 others:

We are disappointed by continued revelations of the mistakes of the past. Yet, we will not be deterred from our agenda. We will continue to work hard to restructure city government to a level of accountability, transparency and performance for our citizens. We have the utmost confidence in U.S Attorney Barbara McQuade and her team, and will cooperate and not interfere with their investigation.

While these indictments will make it more difficult as we seek a new director for the water department, and continue to make the tough but necessary decisions throughout the city, we will maintain our commitment to the highest ethical standards and those who uphold them for the benefit of our city and region.

picasa user david

Kwame Kilpatrick and the others associated in the case are facing charges under the federal RICO statute (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations). You can check the FBI's glossary of terms to see what activities can be charged under RICO. The law was enacted by Congress 40 years ago to prosecute the leaders of organized crime. Before RICO it was difficult to prosecute organized crime leaders who rarely got involved in day-to-day dirty deeds. 

Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press has written up a nice little summary of RICO and how prosecutors have since used it to fight corruption in organized labor, drug gangs, and government officials. He writes:

Prosecutors must prove that there was a “criminal enterprise” at work; that the person being prosecuted conspired with others to commit a pattern of crimes, from violent acts to financial crimes such as bribery, money laundering, wire fraud or extortion.

Federal prosecutors will try to prove that Kilpatrick and those newly indicted today colluded in a pattern of crimes.