In 1970, Congress passed the RICO Act. The acronym stands for the “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” act, and its establishment was intended to create a concrete set of laws to combat organized crime. The law made it a crime to be involved in racketeering activity as part of a gang or criminal enterprise. Legally, racketeering activity is considered the act of acquiring business through illegal means or running a business as a cover to commit crimes in an organized fashion. RICO was originally put in place to prosecute and charge various Mafia families, but there are many crimes that fall under its umbrella.
What Acts are Illegal Under RICO?
While racketeering is the umbrella term for what is criminal under the RICO Act, there are actually 35 specific crimes that fall within the terms of the act. The crimes listed in the RICO Act include, but are not limited, to:
- Robbery and theft
- Homicide, human slavery, kidnapping
- Extortion, bribery, hiring an assassin, fraud, embezzlement
- Arson, falsifying passports and other government documents, copyright infringement
RICO crimes are federal, and the law allows both civil and criminal prosecutions. This means that the government can prosecute you and potentially imprison you, and anyone who was harmed by the crimes you committed can sue you for damages. If you are convicted in a civil lawsuit under RICO, you could be liable to pay triple damages to the plaintiff as well as their attorney fees.
Trials Under the RICO Act
Although the RICO Act seems quite straightforward on paper, there are qualifications that need to be met and specific aspects of the law that need to be proven for someone to be successfully prosecuted.
It must be proven that the defendant showed a pattern of racketeering. To be more specific, the prosecution must show that the defendant was involved in at least two instances of criminal wrongdoing in their respective organized group. To prove that there was a pattern, the crimes being tried must be related and a part of larger, ongoing crimes.
It must also be proven that the defendant was a part of a larger criminal organization or enterprise for their crimes to be tried under RICO. There is a wide spectrum of groups that can be considered a criminal enterprise for trial under RICO, but the most common ones are businesses and street gangs. It is also necessary for the group to have influenced domestic or foreign commerce, or both. More specific guidelines that describe these groups include:
- Existing organization that works as one unit
- Everyone in the group has a common purpose
- Could continue to exist without any one member
For a case to be successfully tried under RICO, all of these factors must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt.
Legal Consequences Under the RICO Act
The RICO Act comes with some harsh consequences due to its intent to lower the rate of organized crime in the United States. If you are convicted of even a single crime under RICO, you could be looking at a prison sentence of up to 20 years and a fine of $250,000. You could also receive a fine amounting to twice the amount of money you made performing the criminal acts being tried.
Something that makes the RICO Act unique is that it includes the rarely used punishment of forfeiture of property. If convicted of a RICO crime, you will be mandated to turn over any money or property you received from the net proceeds of the crime your group committed as well as any vested interest you have in the group. The intent of this is not only to punish the criminal, but also to destabilize the group as a whole to prevent future crimes.
Facing a Charge Under the RICO Act
If you have been charged with a crime that falls under the RICO umbrella, you may be wondering where to turn and what comes next. It is imperative that you have quality legal aid to help guide you through the process, and our skilled attorney at the Law Office of Brian C. Andritch will fight on your behalf with empathy and unwavering intent. With over 20 years of experience in criminal cases, Attorney Andritch will work tirelessly to treat your case with the time and energy it deserves. Contact us today at (559) 484-2112 or contact us here.