Meaning of RICO Charge
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) was passed by Congress with the purpose of seeking to eradicate organized crime in the U.S. Before RICO, prosecutors could only try mob-related crimes on an individual basis. The government’s concern was that they were only able to prosecute individuals instead of shutting down an entire criminal organization. Through RICO, all of the individuals in a corrupt organization can be prosecuted. The original intent of RICO was to shut down the Mafia, but now the Act is used to attack a variety of organized crime, including street gangs, gang, cartels, corrupt police departments, and politicians.
Criminal RICO vs. Civil RICO
If an individual is being charged with RICO, it means they have participated in racketeering activity connected to an enterprise. Racketeering is a term that refers to crimes committed at a state or federal level. More specifically, racketeering is when organized groups run illegal businesses called “rackets.” Common examples of criminal racketeering include illegal gambling, prostitution rings, drug trafficking, counterfeiting, embezzlement, and extortion. When it comes to a criminal RICO charge, there are 35 specific offenses that constitute racketeering, and these crimes are labelled “predicate” offenses. To be charged with RICO, at least two predicate crimes within ten years must be committed through enterprise. The key word here is enterprise, which is different from a racketeering crime on an individual basis.
As far as a civil RICO charge, any civilian can bring a civil suit if they have been affected by a RICO violation. In order to succeed with this claim, the plaintiff must prove that there was criminal activity involved. This means they must prove the defendant committed one of the 35 racketeering offenses. Not only that, but the plaintiff must expose a pattern of criminal activity, showing the instances of at least two crimes. In order to be considered a pattern, the crimes must be linked in some way, i.e. the same victim, same methods, continuous methods, or same participants. Lastly, the plaintiff must bring this suit within the statute of limitations. For a RICO charge, this means they cannot bring a suit beyond four years after the alleged crime date.
Beating RICO Charges
A conviction on RICO charges can mean harsh criminal and civil penalties, including long prison sentences, forfeiture of property, and triple damages. Specifically, the penalties for RICO crimes can be up to $25,000 and up to 20 years-life in prison. The defendant would also likely have to forfeit all money or property gained through illegal activity should they be convicted. Needless to say, if you are being faced with RICO charges, you want a competent attorney who will be aggressive in defending your case.
The good news is that in order to find you guilty of racketeering in violation of the federal RICO Act, the prosecution must prove these elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- An enterprise existed.
- The enterprise affected interstate or foreign commerce.
- You were employed by or associated with the enterprise.
- You conducted or participated in the conduct of the enterprise through the pattern of racketeering activity by committing at least two acts of racketeering activity.
In order to beat a RICO charge, you will need an attorney who can challenge the prosecution’s evidence enough to bring any of the elements above into question. At The Wiseman Law Firm, we will work diligently to either get your charges reduced or your case dismissed entirely.
If you are being faced with RICO charges, call The Wiseman Law Firm at (407) 708-9127 or contact us online.