Cybercrime Milestone: Guilty Verdict In RICO Case

Prosecutors use law designed to take down mobsters to fight online crime.

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User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 5:18:32 AM
Re: more RICO prosecutions?
Great question, and I'm following that up. This case prompts two bigger questions: Is the use of RICO appropriate for taking down people who -- for example in this case -- were smaller players? It was successfully used here, obviously, for, which functioned like an eBay for stolen IDs. That means the government has been able to indict everyone to which it successfully sold fake IDs via, thanks to its sting operation. Notably, however, the government failed to touch the actual admins, who according to some reports are in Russia.

The key part of this RICO case hinges on an undercover Secret Service agent, "Celtic," selling users fake IDs. Together with information gathered from the website (and we don't know to what extent the government may have infiltrated the site, beyond Celtic's storefront), the government was able to build its case.

Trying to apply RICO to a site of the Silk Road variety, however, would arguably be more difficult. The ATF's "Fast and Furious" guns sting operation got into hot water because the ATF lost track of the guns it was selling. Likewise, if the government tried to take down all of the users of a "darknet" narcotics-selling site, any undercover agent would need to appear to be trafficking in the real thing. Fake IDs, of course, aren't as much of a liability.

Long answer short: I'm not a lawyer, but according to ones I've spoken with, it looks like for this particular case, the stars lined up. In general, however, successfully applying RICO is -- and should remain -- tough, given the relatively harsh prison time and fines that can result.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/13/2013 | 5:07:39 AM
Re: In the US Grand Jury don't convect anyone
Thanks for the catch. Slip of the tongue. We'll get that fixed.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2013 | 3:44:55 PM
In the US Grand Jury don't convect anyone
Grand Juries indite people they don't convect them.  They also don't find someone guilty.  The grand jury indites someone, then there is a trial, then the petite jury determains thier guilt or innocence.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2013 | 1:34:32 PM
more RICO prosecutions?
Mat, do you think we'll see RICO used to go after more cybercrime?
User Rank: Apprentice
12/12/2013 | 1:25:36 PM
In this case, it's probably appropriate
A document forging racket is definitely a racket.  The statute can be abused, and sometimes has been to punish what amounts to seditious extremism or non-profit mischief; but for-profit criminal businesses were what the statute was designed to deter.

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