Federal prosecutors have available two sets of statutes to dismantle
criminal enterprises that function like businesses. The continuing
criminal enterprise (CCE) statute (21 U.S.C. 848) targets only drug
traffickers who are responsible for long-term and elaborate
conspiracies. The antiracketeering statute (18 U.S.C. 1951-1968), which
includes the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO),
targets offenders working at the top levels of various kinds of criminal
The number of prosecutions based on these statutes is relatively small
compared to those for major categories of Federal offenses such as drug
trafficking. Among persons whose cases were terminated in U.S. district
court in 1990, 996 were prosecuted using the racketeering statutes and
128 were prosecuted using CCE, while 17,135 were prosecuted for drug
trafficking using other statutes.
Conviction under most criminal enterprise statutes requires proof of
both a predicate offense and--what is generally more difficult--a
pattern or set of circumstances that connect the predicate offenses.
The importance of the criminal enterprise statutes comes from their
potential to break up associations of highly placed drug traffickers or
to incapacitate criminals who direct complex illegal activities. By
using these statutes, a U.S. attorney can obtain convictions that carry
longer sentences on average than convictions for the predicate offenses
alone. Additionally, based on overlapping jurisdiction with the States,
Federal prosecutors may agree to use the statutes to prosecute crimes
such as murder and robbery that would otherwise be State offenses only.
The main findings from an analysis of matters concluded by U.S.
attorneys and cases terminated in U.S. district courts, from mid-1987 to
mid-1990, include the following:
*In 1990, 2% of Federal offenders were convicted of racketeering or CCE
*CCE offenders constituted less than 1% of Federal drug offenders,
representing a uniquely defined set of the most serious drug
traffickers. Characteristics of these offenders,