In Kitsap, a spate of organized crime?

Leading Organized Crime is about as serious as any felony you can be accused of in the state of Washington. 

In Kitsap County Superior Court, the crime  — known as a class A felony, putting it on par with murder,  robbery and rape — has rarely been charged.

Until now, it seems.

I asked longtime defense attorney Ron Ness last summer how many times he’s seen it in courts here. He was hard pressed to recall a single case.

However, I’d inquired following the charging of a California man with the organized crime charge. The man, whose case is still pending, is accused of selling prescription drugs with the help of others, a charge he denies.

“I’m surprised,” Ness said at the time of the charging. “It’s a very difficult crime to prove.”

Prosecutors have to show the defendant “did intentionally organize, manage, direct, supervise, or finance any three or more persons with the intent to engage in a pattern of criminal profiteering activity.”

Ness told me last summer that federal prosecutors will usually take cases that involve alleged organized crime. They typically use the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, to pursue such suspects.

But since that initial case (which is still slated for trial here), three more have been charged in Kitsap:

The leader of a drug-trafficking ring that brought major quantities of meth into Kitsap County. He pleaded guilty and got 10 years in prison for it.

A Bremerton man suspected of leading a counterfeiting and money-laundering operation. His case is pending trial.

A Port Orchard man accused of participating in a burglary ring that involved break-ins across the peninsula. His case is also pending trial.

So what’s the deal? More organized crime — or a bringing of the hammer by our county’s prosecutor’s office?

The answer lies in the former, local prosecutors say.

“We’ve not gone out of our way to concentrate or charge more leading organized crimes,” said Tim Drury, chief of the felony division of the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s Office.

Kevin Kelly, senior deputy prosecutor who frequently charges felonies in Kitsap County, added he believes the uptick in such charges may continue.

“We’re seeing more property crimes where people are doing (the crime) in concert with other people,” said Kelly, who added: “I’ve seen more (organized crime cases) in the last year than I ever have before.”

The Kitsap Sun will keep you posted as to those cases. Though it depends on the defendant’s criminal history, a conviction for leading organized crime carries with it serious prison time.

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