For Immediate Release - February 23, 2010

Attorney General Coakley Calls for Updates to Criminal Laws

AG says enterprise crime, wiretap, money laundering updates needed to combat crimes associated with casino gaming and criminal enterprises

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley today called on the Legislature to pass legislation that would update the state's criminal statutes to better combat crimes associated with casino gaming, gang violence, and various other criminal enterprises. Attorney General Coakley testified before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary today in support of HB 4293 /SB 2183, <em>An Act to Combat Economic Crime,</em> comprehensive economic crime legislation designed to give law enforcement the necessary tools to investigate and prosecute sophisticated criminal activities and enterprises in the 21 st century. The bill, which is sponsored by the Attorney General as well as a coalition of legislators and District Attorneys, specifically updates the law in three areas, including money laundering, enterprise crime, and wire interception.

"Particularly as we explore the possibility of expanded gaming in the Commonwealth, it is critical that we update our laws so that we can effectively address the types of financial crimes and corruption that are often associated with legalized gaming," said Attorney General Coakley. "The new tools proposed in this bill will also help police and prosecutors to better investigate and hold accountable those who engage in sophisticated, organized, and often large-scale schemes to steal money or otherwise profit from illegal conduct-from organized retail crime, to gang activity, to human trafficking. This legislation will make important updates to our criminal statutes to allow Massachusetts to continue to be on the cutting edge of fighting crime and keeping our communities safe."

The bill updates the law in three key areas:

  • Money Laundering - Money laundering, which entails concealing the source of illegally obtained money, has proven to be critical in the furtherance of large-scale, illegal enterprises such as terrorism, narcotics trafficking and other organized crime, and is particularly prevalent where casino gaming is legal. Among other measures, the bill makes it a crime to knowingly engage in a financial transaction derived from criminal activity with the intent to promote, carry on, or facilitate criminal activity. Under the proposed new law, the crime of money laundering would carry a maximum penalty of six years in State Prison, or up to eight years for a repeat offense. Money laundering is prohibited by federal law and in at least 28 other states.
  • Enterprise Crime - The legislation also focuses on traditional and non-traditional criminal enterprises and organizations, including so-called organized crime families and traditional street gangs, organized retail crime rings, identity theft rings, large-scale drug, gun and human trafficking groups. Many of these organizations have sophisticated structures and extensive supporting networks, allowing them to engage in such criminal activities as money laundering, illegal gaming, running drugs and firearms, credit card and identity theft, and other types of fraud. The bill will prohibit patterns of certain crimes committed by corrupt enterprises, allowing the ring leaders and major players, who control and direct the enterprise but often do not partake in the actual commission of the crime, to be deterred and held accountable. Specifically, the bill makes it a crime, through a pattern of criminal enterprise activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt, to knowingly:
  • receive proceeds derived from such activity;
  • use the proceeds to establish, operate, or acquire any enterprise;
  • receive anything of value or acquire any interest in or control of any enterprise; or
  • be employed by or associated with any enterprise to conduct or participate in the enterprise by engaging in a pattern of criminal enterprise activity or through the collection on an unlawful debt.

Under the proposed new law, such activity would carry a minimum penalty of five years in State Prison, and a maximum of 15 years. Currently, 32 states have enterprise crime statutes.

  • Wire Interception - Last updated in 1968, the Massachusetts wire interception statute has not been updated to address either the technological advancements in telecommunications, or the changes in the nature and structure of criminal enterprises over the past 40 years. This bill provides much-needed updates to the wire interception law, including adding a definition for "electronic communication," designating new crimes eligible for the use of a lawful interception, and extending the amount of time that a lawful interception can remain open from 15 to 30 days to account for the breadth and complexities of criminal investigations in the 21 st century. The bill also allows lawful, court approved one-party consent monitoring and recording of conversations of certain crimes. At this time, 43 states have wire interception statutes, and 35 have one-party consent statutes.

View PDF copy of Attorney General Coakley's testimony:

This legislation was filed in August 2009 by Attorney General Coakley, and is co-sponsored by the following legislators:

Senator Steven Baddour (D-Methuen)
Senator Stephen Brewer (D-Barre)
Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield)
Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford)
Senator James Timilty (D-Walpole)
Representative James Vallee (D-Franklin), House Majority Leader
Representative Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham)
Representative Katherine Clark (D-Melrose)
Representative Barry Finegold (D-Andover)
Representative John Keenan (D-Salem)
Representative Peter Koutoujian (D-Waltham)
Representative Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown)

In addition, all 11 of the state's District Attorney's support the legislation.