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Three Strikes And You're Out, ACORN!

Now that a third ACORN video has surfaced, a pattern emerges of ACORN workers willing to help people engage in prostitution, tax fraud, housing fraud, and even human trafficking. Under federal law, a RICO investigation is now warranted. Three strikes and you’re out, ACORN.

Videos show ACORN employees offering to help two undercover reporters/filmmakers posing as a prostitute and pimp in falsifying tax returns and getting a federal loan to buy a house that they could use as a brothel for underage prostitutes smuggled in from El Salvador.

When the first video emerged from such a meeting in ACORN’s Baltimore office on Thursday, ACORN fired the two workers involved. When another video surfaced on Friday, this one from ACORN’s Washington, D.C. office, the two workers involved there were fired as well, and ACORN said that these two reporters had tried and failed to carry out this sting in other offices.

One such office where ACORN said these reporters tried and failed was New York City. Yet Monday, a third video surfaced from Brooklyn in New York City. Once again, the ACORN employees on the video advise the undercover duo on how to violate federal law by filing a false income tax return to qualify for a federal housing loan.

As one worker says on the video, “honesty is not going to get you the house.” -- Well, not if you’re engaged in a host of felonies.

ACORN has the audacity to say that the undercover reporters may have committed a crime in the videotaping process, alleging that they doctored the tapes and that the reality is not what every viewer can plainly see and hear on the tape. (Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?)

Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

The reality is, there are at least a half-dozen state and federal laws that could have been broken here. Even though the undercover young woman is not really a prostitute and there are no El Salvadoran girls here either, this could still meet the legal standard for conspiracy to commit these various crimes. At a bare minimum, depending on the state, it likely fulfills the elements for the crime of attempted conspiracy, which usually carries the exact same penalty as the underlying crimes themselves (prostitution, tax fraud, etc.).

What’s important about prostitution and human trafficking is that they are specific triggers for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO. The RICO law is designed to enable the Justice Department to go after criminal enterprises. It defines “racketeering activity” as including importing illegal aliens for immoral purposes, falsifying identification documents and immigration papers, mail and wire fraud, and the sexual exploitation of children, among others.

These are all implicated on the video tapes. The ACORN workers rattle off their how-to instructions on carrying out these crimes without needing to do more than skim a couple books that they have on hand. The clear implication is that these workers are seasoned pros who know how to carry out these crimes, subsidized by federal taxpayer money.

Although everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty, a RICO investigation is now warranted. There are already multiple state investigations of ACORN underway, and thirty ACORN workers have already pleaded guilty to committing crimes. Attorney General Eric Holder should immediately order a RICO investigation, while we all wait to see if more footage is forthcoming.

Ken Blackwell is the former undersecretary at the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and also U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council.
Ken Klukowski is a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.

Ken Blackwell, a director of the Coalition for Mortgage Security, is a former undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a former Ohio state treasurer, and former mayor of Cincinnati.