The Secret Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Agents arrested 19 people on various racketeering charges last week. Five people were arrested in Las Vegas, with the remainder picked up in California, Florida, New York, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and West Virginia. More arrests are expected. According to U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, the Las Vegas-based identity theft and trafficking ring, which Bogden has dubbed “Operation Open Market,” was a sophisticated racketeering organization involving at least 50 people nationwide.
The parties involved allegedly bought and sold pilfered debit and credit card information from sites such as PayPal and throughout Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the U.S. They also allegedly tested and provided reviews of services including money laundering and trading counterfeit documents, such as fake identification documents. The organization worked online and encouraged members to operate through its websites, such as “Carder.su.” The parties arrested face charges of conspiracy, racketeering, and production and trafficking in false identification documents and access device cards.
The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) allows federal law enforcement agencies to indict individuals for any illegal activity that affects interstate commerce. The maximum punishment for an individual on a single RICO charge is imprisonment for twenty years and a fine of $250,000 or twice the proceeds of the offense. In addition, a person convicted of violating RICO laws may also have to forfeit any property that was gained through their illegal activities. Asset forfeiture could mean losing your car, house, bank accounts, and more.
Under federal conspiracy laws, the Supreme Court has explained that a “collective criminal agreement” is a greater potential threat to the public because it increases the likelihood that the criminal object will be successfully attained, generally attains ends more complex than those which one criminal could accomplish, and decreases the probability that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality. Individuals convicted of conspiracy are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of not more than $250,000 (not more than $500,000 for organizations).
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