Justice and Law Enforcement:

Stronger Federal Effort Needed in Fight Against Organized Crime

GGD-82-2: Published: Dec 7, 1981. Publicly Released: Dec 7, 1981.

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Organized crime derives billions of dollars in illegal income annually from its activities. It is costing the government approximately $100 million a year to fight organized crime. The strike force program was designed to focus an experienced and coordinated federal enforcement and prosecutive attack against this major national problem. GAO was requested to evaluate Justice's role in impeding, restricting, and combating organized crime activities and to conduct a followup of a prior GAO report dealing with organized crime strike forces.

GAO found that efforts made on the part of the Department of Justice to better plan, organize, and direct the federal effort against organized crime have led to strike forces successfully obtaining indictments against and prosecuting high level organized crime figures. The establishment of the National Organized Crime Planning Council to coordinate efforts against organized crime, the setting of broad priorities and targets, the use of case initiation reports and efforts to develop an evaluation system are steps in the right direction. Justice must do more to improve the focus and direction of the program by establishing executive committees in each strike force. Law enforcement agencies must be brought into the activities to develop specific priorities and targets to break up organized crime. GAO found that the full potential of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) statute in the fight against organized crime has not been realized. While the statute has been used to obtain significant sentences for some convicted defendants, there have been few asset forfeitures in organized crime cases. RICO does not adequately introduce concepts not commonly used in criminal law. What has emerged are a variety of interpretations and tests which are sometimes inconsistent among jurisdictions. The final outcomes of federal efforts against organized crime are the indictment, conviction, and imprisonment of organized crime figures. The federal goal of disrupting organized crime will be difficult to accomplish under current sentencing patterns.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matters for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress should make legislative changes to improve the use of the Tax Reform Act of 1976.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Other legislative initiatives have accomplished the objective of this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should authorize forfeiture of substitute assets but only to the extent that assets forfeitable under the RICO Act: (1) cannot be located; (2) have been transferred, sold to, or deposited with third parties; or (3) placed beyond the general territorial jurisdiction of the United States. This authorization would be limited to the values of the assets described.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should clarify that interests forfeitable under the RICO Act include assets illicitly derived, maintained, or acquired that are held or owned in an individual capacity by a member of a de facto association or enterprise convicted of violating the RICO statute.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Other legislative revisions to the RICO statute have been passed by Congress. These revisions, to an extent, address this recommendation.

    Matter: Congress should make explicit provision for the forfeiture of any profits and proceeds that are: (1) acquired, derived, used, or maintained in violation of the RICO Act; or (2) acquired or derived as a result of a RICO violation.

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This has been accomplished by P.L. 98-473.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should emphasize that case initiation reports be prepared for all organized crime cases. This will provide a means to ensure that: (1) strike forces' resources are applied only to cases involving organized crime figures or utilization of extensive investigative resources; and (2) cases are transferred to U.S. Attorney's Offices when appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should require that all cases not involving organized crime figures or utilization of extensive investigative resources be transferred to U.S. Attorney's Offices for prosecution rather than using the limited resources of the strike forces to prosecute these cases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The agency strongly disagrees with the recommendation although GAO believes it to be appropriate.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that all federal law enforcement agencies participating in the program to fight organized crime actively participate in the functions of the executive committees.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Attorney General has decided to establish Law Enforcement Coordinating Committees in each district, chaired by the U.S. Attorney. This will bring together all law enforcement resources including strike forces, federal investigative units, and state and local entities and will provide a basis for coordination of resources in the district.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should establish an executive committee in each strike force.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Attorney General has required establishment of Law Enforcement Coordinating Committees to assemble all law enforcement resources including strike forces, federal investigative agencies, and state and local entities to assess local law enforcement needs and implementation of a comprehensive district plan best utilizing federal resources.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should ensure that an evaluation system is developed that will measure the performance and accomplishments of the strike forces so that management improvements can be made where appropriate.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Justice proceeded through four trials of its evaluation system until two Supreme Court decisions denied nonattorney personnel access to grand jury information. Although a new procedure may get around this limitation, Justice has found it difficult to develop adequate measures to evaluate performance and currently lacks staff necessary for systematic strike force evaluations.

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