In California, when a person conducts certain activities, including bribery, money laundering, prostitution, and extortion, as part of a criminal enterprise, he or she could face a racketeering charge. Penalties for such charges are severe, including years to decades of incarceration and thousands of dollars in fines. Because racketeering cases involve an organized operation, oftentimes more than one person is charged in a racketeering case.
While racketeering cases can involve kingpins and drug lords, they’re just as likely to focus on a person in a position of political power. Just last month, for example, former state Senator Leland Yee was sentenced to five years in prison after he admitted that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes and considered helping an undercover agent buy automatic weapons from the Philippines. Yee was a long-time politician and, publicly, a gun control advocate; his conviction came to many as a surprise.
What is Racketeering?
Racketeering refers to certain activities conducted in an organized manner. These activities include arson, bribery, copyright infringement, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, embezzlement, extortionate credit transactions, fraud, human trafficking, illegal gambling, kidnapping, money laundering, murder, obstruction of justice, robbery, slavery, and sports bribery.
While all of these activities are in themselves illegal in California, simply committing one of these activities won’t necessarily prompt a racketeering charge unless the crime was committed as part of an enterprise or other organized group. As such, many racketeering charges are brought against multiple members of a gang, syndicate, or group, when a racketeering case is discovered.
The Case of Former State Senator Leland Yee
Until this year, former state Senator Leland Yee had been considered an upstanding politician, having served on the San Francisco Board of Education, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in the state Assembly and, in 2014, having been a candidate for California Secretary of State. But in February, a federal judge sentenced former California Senator Leland Yee to half a decade in prison following Yee’s admission of guilt to racketeering.
Between October 2012 and March 2014, Yee took bribes from undercover FBI agents amounting to over $30,000 in transactions and accepted $11,000 for setting up a meeting with another state senator, $10,000 for recommending a person for a grant, and $6,800 for providing a fraudulent certificate on California State Senate letterhead. Furthermore, he discussed helping an undercover agent buy automatic weapons from the Philippines for distribution in the U.S. illegally. As a result of his racketeering activities, Yee has been sentenced to five years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
How a Skilled San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney at McElfresh Law Can Help You
Because racketeering cases involve multiple parties, you may be at risk of facing racketeering charges if you’ve been involved in a gang, syndicate, or other organized group—even if you were only peripherally involved in a crime. At McElfresh Law, we have experience helping people affected by racketeering cases and can help you to fight your charges by building the strongest possible defense for your case. Call to speak to one of our experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyers at (858) 756-7107 today for a free, initial consultation.