The new case against the Mongol Nation, like the previous one, seeks to apply the government’s powerful tool of asset forfeiture against an alleged criminal organization. Typically, these assets are ill-gotten gains from drug trafficking, financial fraud and other criminal activities.
Prosecutors in other cases, for instance, have reported seizing $2.9 million in cash during a Stockton, Calif., bust, more than 5,000 iPods worth $1.1 million during a Miami bust and $2.8 million worth of silver coins and bars in a Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, bust, according to the Justice Department’s most recent asset-forfeiture report.
Prosecutors first tried going after the Mongols’ trademark in 2008, when officials indicted some 80 individual Mongols on assorted criminal charges. Prosecutors said then that the trademarked name and logo were closely associated with the alleged criminal activities undertaken by members of the organization.
"If the court grants our request . . . then if any law enforcement officer sees a Mongol wearing his patch, he will be authorized to stop that gang member and literally take the jacket right off his back,” then-U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien said in 2008.
A judge ultimately said the trademark forfeiture might violate the free-speech rights of Mongols who hadn’t been criminally charged and who wanted to wear their club patches.
As spelled out in the indictment made public in February, the Mongols obtained trademarks in 2005 and 2006 for the name and the image of the ponytailed motorcycle rider. After assorted legal proceedings, the trademarks are now said by prosecutors to be held by the Mongol Nation organization. The trademark-protected identity, prosecutors say, “conveyed that . . . criminal activities were being carried out on behalf of the Mongols Gang.”
Prosecutors further say that, if they win conviction of the organization on racketeering charges, they’ll seek forfeiture of all rights associated with the Mongols’ trademarks. This proposal differs from the earlier trademark-seizing effort because it’s based on indicting the organization, rather than individuals.
The organization hadn’t yet been served with the legal papers associated with the indictment, as of the most recent court filings in March, and it hasn’t filed a legal response.