Monday, February 23, 2009

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Attorney General Abbott, Sen. Williams, Sen. Van De Putte, Rep. Pena Join Forces To Crack Down On Organized Crime

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, today joined State Senators Tommy Williams and Leticia Van de Putte, and State Rep. Aaron Pena, who announced the introduction of legislation that will help crack down on human trafficking, weapons smuggling, money laundering, transnational gangs, drug cartels and other organized criminal enterprises. If enacted, the legislation would give the Attorney General new legal authority to seize crime syndicates' illegal profits, proceeds, and property. The Texas Racketeering and Corruption Act, which will be known as TexRAC, is sponsored by Sen. Williams in the Texas Senate and Rep. Pena in the House of Representatives.

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“TexRAC adds a valuable new weapon to the state’s battle against an increasingly dangerous organized crime industry,” said Attorney General Abbott. “By giving the Office of the Attorney General expanded authority to seize crime syndicates’ property and illegal proceeds, TexRAC will help the state cut off the lucrative profits that fuel these illegal enterprises. Thanks to the innovative solutions offered by Senator Williams, Senator Van de Putte, and Representative Pena, law enforcement will have the legal tools we need to continue cracking down on organized crime.”

TexRAC gives the Office of the Attorney General expanded authority to recover crime syndicates’ illegal profits, proceeds, and property. If enacted, the legislation would allow the Office of the Attorney General to seek court orders seizing criminals’ property and freezing their assets. To pursue a TexRAC action, the state would have to show that the defendant profited from illegal criminal activity. The underlying predicate crimes for a TexRAC action include: homicide, human trafficking, money laundering, prostitution, and gambling.

Explaining the needs for the law, Sen. Williams said: “We want to arm law enforcement with all the available criminal and civil tools we possibly can to fight human trafficking, transnational gang activity and organized crime.”

Sen. Van de Putte: “Organized crime is like a weed growing in your yard; it is only when you pull out the root that the weed dies and the infestation of your yard ceases. Authorizing the pursuit of civil remedies against criminal organizations will allow the state to attack organized crime at the root.”

Rep. Pena: “Texas faces serious acts of organized crime and counts on its law enforcement and prosecutors to keep our communities safe. Now we have the opportunity to help further disable these criminal enterprises. In South Texas alone we have witnessed first hand drug, firearms, and human trafficking. This legislation will give the Attorney General a new tool to punish those that engage in the most serious organized crime by hitting them where it hurts, their assets.”

In addition to expanding the Attorney Generals authority to recoup criminals’ assets, TexRAC creates a new second- degree felony offense, Illegal Control or Conduct of an Enterprise. Second-degree felonies are punishable by between two and 20 years in prison. Defendants convicted of controlling an organized criminal enterprise that harmed children would face a third-degree felony, which is punishable by between two and 10 years in prison.