Southern California Public Radio is reporting that a federal judge in Los Angeles is considering whether to allow the government to seize the trademarked name and logo of the Mongols motorcycle gang. The judge, Honorable Otis D. Wright II, told prosecutors to prepare a proposed order for the forfeiture of the gang’s trademark, which members display as part of their colors, or patch.

Back in 2008 almost 80 members of the gang were indicted on racketeering charges including murder, torture, and drug trafficking. The gang was formed in the 1970’s by a group of Latinos who had been rejected by the Hells Angels. The gang has an estimated 500-600 members, mostly located in Southern California, who allegedly fund their operations with sales of meth. Now, Judge Wright wants to consider forfeiting the gang’s Genghis Khan looking image. The U.S. Attorneys Office in Southern California stated that this would be the first time the government has ever attempted to seize a gang’s trademarks. We discussed another interesting case of criminal forfeiture in a previous post.

In that post we discussed Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(b). This rule guides the determination of the scope of forfeitable property. In the instant case the court has identified the property subject to forfeiture and has asked the U.S. Attorneys Office to write a brief demonstrating the “requisite nexus between the property and the offense.” Implicit in this nexus requirement is the determination of the defendant’s guilt. The article mentions that the U.S. Attorneys Office has already obtained numerous guilty pleas from former gangmembers, but connecting the proven guilty actions of some to the broader organization may prove to be an onerous task for federal prosecutors. However, it probably helps the government’s case that the 80 or so gangmembers were implicated in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) indictment.

Establishing the requisite nexus between the organization’s trademark and guilt under RICO offenses seems to make more sense than if the bikers were indicted individually. In essence, the RICO charges require the defendants to commit a pattern of racketeering activity that is in some way intertwined with an enterprise. In this case its the murder, torture and drug trafficking acts connected to an investment, ownership or control of a motorcycle gang. Thus, if prosecutors can demonstrate to the court that the 80 or so convicted bikers’ criminal conduct likely contributed to the sale and profitability of the Mongol’s trademarks, they may have a legitimate chance at succeeding in this forfeiture action. Depending on the outcome, we may see prosecutors seeking brand new forfeiture orders for previously obtained gang related convictions. The potential implications of this case can be worth millions of dollars.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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