This Tuesday 20 people faced arraignments in Walker Georgia on charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The Lookout Mountain District Attorney alleges that a Walker County family and at least 17 others were running one of the largest marijuana selling operations in the region.
Detectives say that Seth, Warren, and Barbara Smith were smuggling pot into Walker County and using their home in Menlo as a distribution hub.
The charges were brought after police seized boats, guns, cars and other equipment from the Smith’s house.
Smith’s attorneys say the search was done improperly.
During the search police discovered a trailer, which they believe was used to transfer marijuana across state lines including Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee. Police say that the Smith’s had operated their pot dealing enterprise for 10 years.
Much of the evidence against the Smith’s have been sealed by court order. Attorneys for the defendants have not agreed whether the cases will be handed together or individually.
The Smiths’ connection to the pot operation has also caused further investigation of their business ventures. The family formerly operated a barbeque restaurant and an antique shop. Authorities are now investigating the operation of those businesses for any evidence of corruption.
The charges brought against the Smiths under RICO are just one type of charge that can be brought under the law for operation of an illegal business. Usually authorities charge defendants under RICO when they want to connect large number of individuals with a crime. Penalties under RICO tend to be strict.