Engaging in Organized Crime

by Martin Miller

A person commits an organized crime offense if he or she commits or conspires to commit one or more of the following, with the intent to establish, maintain or participate in a combination or in the profits of a combination or as a member of a criminal street gang: murder, capital murder, arson, aggravated robbery, robbery, theft, credit card abuse, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated assault, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, forgery, deadly conduct, assault punishable as a Class A misdemeanor, burglary of a motor vehicle or unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

“Combination” means three or more persons who collaborate in carrying on criminal activities even if:

  • the participants may not know each other’s identity;
  • membership in the combination may change from time to time; and
  • participants may stand in a wholesaler-retailer or other arm’s-length relationship in illicit distribution operations.

“Conspires to commit” means that a person agrees with one or more persons that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the offense and that person and one or more of them perform an overt act in pursuance of the agreement. An agreement constituting conspiring to commit may be inferred from the acts of the parties.

Example

Joe and three of his friends — John, Scott and Phil — all work at different stores in the local mall. The guys come up with an idea to steal items from the stores where they work. They collect credit card numbers from people who shop at the stores, and use the numbers at each other’s stores to steal merchandise. They each figure if they use the numbers at different stores, they will not get caught. The scheme works for a while, but they forget about the security cameras in each of the stores. The credit card charges are reported as unauthorized, and the security cameras are checked to see who made the purchases on the credit card numbers on the questionable dates. The guys are all arrested for credit card abuse. The charge is then enhanced to engaging in organized crime, which increases the punishment possibility by one level. The credit card abuse offense is a state jail felony offense with a possible punishment of up to two years in state prison and a fine up to $10,000. The new charge, engaging in organized crime, is a third-degree felony offense and the punishment possibility for the guys goes up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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