What is RICO in Criminal Law?
The RICO Act is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It is a US federal law that prosecutes ongoing criminal organizations like the mafia. Punishments allow for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action, or the right to sue or enforce the law on a defendant.
Where did it come from?
RICO was enacted in 1970 as part of the Organized Crime Control Act signed by President Nixon. The act was created to prosecute the Mafia, as well as other organized crime groups, and prohibits the creation or management of a gambling organization involving five or more people, and if it has been in business for more than 30 days or accumulates $2,000 in gross revenue in a single day.
RICO and the Law
By definition, a person will be charged with racketeering if he or she is a member of an organization that has committed any two of 35 specified crimes within 10 years. Penalties include a fine up to $25,000 and 20 years imprisonment for each count of racketeering, plus the restitution of all racketeering-related assets.
Generally a RICO indictment inflicted by the US Attorney may also include a pre-trial restraining order or injunction against the defendant in order to freeze his or her assets and prevent the defendant from moving or covering up evidence.
Private parties also have the option to sue racketeers, pursuing the recovery of personal treble damages (this amounts to triple the amount of actual damages).
In many situations, indictment can make a defendant want to strike a deal by pleading guilty to lesser charges or even giving up other members of the organization. In any case, if the defendant lost his or her assets, it would be nearly impossible to employ a criminal defense lawyer.
What is racketeering activity?
Racketeering activity includes any violation of state statutes pertaining to:
- Gambling, bribery
- Murder, murder-for-hire
- Kidnapping, extortion, slavery
- Arson, robbery, theft, or dealing obscene matter
- Counterfeiting, obstruction of justice,
- Embezzlement, money laundering
- Bankruptcy fraud or securities fraud
- Drug trafficking (generally long term and elaborate)
- Trafficking illegal aliens (if for financial benefit)
The definition of money laundering has expanded to mean “any financial transaction which generates an asset or a value as the result of an illegal act.” This broad definition can include any of the following:
- Mortgage fraud
- Mail or Wire fraud
- Securities fraud
- Tax evasion
- False accounting
- Insider trading
- Theft by fraud
- Bad checks
- Organized defraud schemes
Generally your criminal defense lawyer should have a good working relationship with the prosecutor to try and help you avoid any serious consequences by paying restitution.
If you have been charged with any of these crimes, or have been charged with racketeering, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can help you build an aggressive defense.