COCCA is the Colorado Organized Control Act and it is to be found at C.R.S. 18-7-104(3). Basically, COCCA charges are conspiracy cases with larger potential sentences. Although COCCA cases are usually found in drug cases, I have worked on COCCA cases that involved mortgage fraud, child prostitution, credit card fraud, and financial fraud.
One major difference between between COCCA and “regular” conspiracy cases are the sentences, where people charged under COCCA can face presumptive sentencing ranges that are twice the range for narcotics cases.
The COCCA statute is based on the federal RICO statute. RICO is short for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and it was enacted in 1970 as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The primary initial target of RICO was large organized crime conspiracies such as the Mafia and later, large street gangs.
ELEMENTS OF COCCA CRIMINAL CASES
COCCA criminal cases require the prosecution to prove that the defendant unlawfully participated either directly or indirectly in an “enterprise” through a “pattern of racketeering activity.” An “enterprise” is a group of individuals who are associated in some defined way. Basically, a conspiracy will look a lot like an “enterprise.” In fact, there really is no practical difference between a conspiracy and an enterprise–they will look the same. I have handled cases in which the “enterprise” was over 40 people and some cases in which the “enterprise” was a grand total of 3 people. So yes, you can get charged for COCCA even if you are in a small group of people selling drugs, or writing bad checks.
The United States Supreme has defined the term “enterprise” in RICO cases, which is helpful for COCCA cases. Specifically the Supreme Court held that an enterprise must be (1) an ongoing organization, (2) operating as a continuing unit, and (3) must be “an entity separate and apart from the activity in which it engages.” U.S. v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 574, 583, 101 S. Ct. 2524, 69 L.Ed.2d 246, at 583.
What is a “pattern of racketeering activity?” For a pattern, you need at least two criminal acts and at least the last of these acts need to happen within ten years of the day of the criminal complaint or indictment. Racketeering activities are listed in the Colorado statute at 18 U.S.C. 1961(1)(A), (1)(B), (1)(C), and (1)(D) and also include the following:
a. Offenses against a person (such as murder, assault, kidnapping, child trafficking, menacing);
b. Offenses against property (such as arson, vehicle theft, burglary, theft, and criminal mischief);
c. Computer crime;
d. Offenses involving fraud (such as forgery, possession of a false identification);
e. Offenses against a family relation (sexual exploitation of a child)
f. Offenses against morals (pandering, child prostitution)
g. Offenses regarding governmental operations (attempt to influence a public official, perjury for example);
h. Offenses related to firearms and weapons;
i. Offenses involving the making or collection of loans;
j. Fraud upon the department of revenue;
k. Securities offenses;
l. Offenses regarding controlled substances (Drug cases)
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COCCA AND DRUG CONSPIRACY CASES
As a practical matter, COCCA cases are Conspiracy cases: they overlap. Every COCCA case is a conspiracy case but the reverse if not true. One big difference is the number of people and whether the group work was as an enterprise for a common goal. Another difference relates to the number of times the group conducts the criminal act. A “pattern” requires two or more acts so if a group acts together a single time, that case is probably not a COCCA case.
A word of caution, COCCA cases carry massive potential penalties. Under the Colorado statute, these cases are categorized as F2 felonies, which means that the presumptive sentence of 8 to 24 years in prison. Meanwhile, conspiracy cases can range from different felony charges and a wide range of potential sentences.