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Court Defines Meaning of Criminal Enterprise

This is a criminal case about the defendants who were indicted for forty one counts of Enterprise Corruption, Bribing a Labor Official, Bribe receiving by a Labor Official, and various Labor Law violations. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the defendants moved for inspection of the grand jury minutes and dismissal of the indictment, specifically for dismissal of Count One, (the Enterprise Corruption count) on various grounds.

The indictment was based on an investigation of the Carpenters’ Union. A Union Official was caught receiving a bribe and thereafter agreed to cooperate with the district attorney’s office. The prosecution contends that the defendants and the Union official were a group of persons engaged in a “criminal enterprise.” The defendants assisted each other to arrange or commit bribery from contractors to the Union Official to influence him to condone various violations of labor laws.

Count One charges the crime of Enterprise Corruption in violation of Article 460 of the Penal Law. Article 460, part of the New York “Organized Crime Control Act” (“OCCA”), was inspired by the federal “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” Act (RICO). 18 U.S.C. 1961 et seq. (Cf. Penal Law Article 460 at 552, McKinney’s Cons.Laws of N.Y., Book 39, ed. Donnino, Practice Commentaries).

RICO was enacted, to be used not just against “organized crime” in the traditional sense but also against many other activities given its very broad scope. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the key section of RICO, 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), makes it unlawful “for any person employed [149 Misc.2d 754] by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity …”. It is not required that the enterprise be a criminal one. The statute is designed to attack the corruption of a legitimate enterprise by a pattern of racketeering activity. Due to its vague language, RICO is applied in cases not usually associated with organized crime or when there is more than one defendant and the existence of the necessary predicate acts.

On the other hand, the New York OCCA Enterprise Corruption sections were designed to avoid such a proliferation of prosecutions. The statute contains more rigorous definitions than other similar statutes, thereby limiting its applicability.

One restrictive requirement is that a perpetrator act with intent to participate in or advance the affairs of a criminal enterprise. The statute defines “criminal enterprise” as a “group of persons sharing a common purpose of engaging in criminal conduct, associated in an ascertainable structure distinct from a pattern of criminal activity, and with a continuity of existence, structure and criminal purpose beyond the scope of individual criminal incidents.” (Penal Law § 460.10[3]. A person is guilty of enterprise corruption “when, having knowledge of the existence of a criminal enterprise and the nature of its activities, and being employed by or associated with such enterprise, he: [149 Misc.2d 755] (a) intentionally conducts or participates in the affairs of an enterprise by participating in a pattern of criminal activity …” (Penal Law § 460.20[1].

There must be a criminal enterprise with a structure and purpose as set forth in the statute, and the defendant must know of its existence and the nature of its activities. The “criminal enterprise” requirement intends to limit the applicability of the statute. Present law is adequate to punish ordinary white-collar crime. Similarly, mere corruption of a legitimate enterprise by a pattern of criminal activity is insufficient to justify prosecution under this Act.”

The allegations against the defendants in this case would satisfy the federal RICO standard. However, after reviewing the Grand Jury minutes, the court cannot conclude that defendants and the Union Official were “associated in an ascertainable structure distinct from a pattern of criminal [149 Misc.2d 756] activity, and with a [scope] of existence, structure and criminal purpose beyond the scope of individual criminal incidents.” (Penal Law § 460.10[3].

The evidence presented to the Grand Jury showed three individuals engaged in giving or taking bribes and related activities. Beyond the various criminal acts, these three people were associated in no structure and certainly not one with a scope of existence beyond their criminal acts. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer said that three people who commit crimes together assign themselves separate roles does not result in a structure “distinct from [their] pattern of criminal activity.” (Penal Law § 460.10[3].

The court was compelled to dismiss the first count or Count One for lack of evidence to show a criminal enterprise within the meaning of Penal Law, Article 460.

Stephen Bilkis with its White Collar Crime Lawyers can ensure that your rights will not be violated. It has offices strategically located within New York Metropolitan area.

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