Special to The Review

Austin — State Rep. Aaron Peña joined Sen. Tommy Williams and Attorney General Greg Abbott Feb. 23 at a press conference at the Capitol to announce the filing of legislation targeting organized crime.

Peña has filed HB 1618, called the Texas Racketeering and Corruption Act (TexRAC), which would give the attorney general’s office the power to seize assets and profits from individuals and organizations involved in the most serious criminal activity.

“Texas faces serious acts of organized crime and counts on its law enforcement and prosecutors to keep our communities safe,” said Peña. “Now we have the opportunity to help further disable these criminal enterprises. In South Texas alone we have witnessed first hand drug, firearms, and human trafficking. This legislation will give the Attorney General a new tool to punish those that engage in the most serious organized crime by hitting them where it hurts, their assets.”

Drug cartel violence continues to escalate in Mexico and there are worries that it could spill over to Texas. Gangs and other criminal organizations on this side of the border have been linked to Mexican cartels in trafficking of drugs, weapons and human beings.

“The TexRAC adds a valuable new weapon to the States battle against an increasingly dangerous organized crime industry,” said Abbott. “By giving the Office of the Attorney General expanded authority to seize crime syndicates’ property and illegal proceeds, TexRAC will help the State cut off the lucrative profits that fuel these illegal enterprises. Thanks to the innovative solutions offered by Sen. Williams, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and Rep. Peña, law enforcement will have the legal tools we need to continue cracking down on organized crime.”

The legislation will allow the attorney general to bring suit against any person, enterprise or organization for racketeering. A suit brought under the charge of racketeering could include offenses of homicide, kidnapping, human, firearms and drug trafficking, money laundering, robbery, theft, fraud and other serious crimes.

“This landmark legislation would give the state an opportunity to dismantle violent gangs and organized criminal activity similar to the powerful, mafia-busting federal RICO Act,” said Peña. “We can inflict some heavy damage to these gangs and cartels by not only jailing these individuals but by bankrupting their criminal enterprises.”

Peña represents House District 40 in South Texas. He is serving his fourth Term in the Texas House.