What is a RICO charge & the RICO Act: All that you need to know

Racketeering is a general phrase that encompasses a wide range of illegal activities, most notably those involving extortion. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) defines it as a term to describe patterns of illicit behaviour. We will be discussing RICO and what is a RICO charge later in detail as you scroll down. This is a federal statute that prohibits the acquisition or management of a company via the commission of certain crimes or the receipt of the proceeds of those crimes in the United States of America. It’s also a criminal under the law to collaborate with a corporation to conduct any of the aforementioned offences, even if you’re only a bystander.

According to RICO, federal crimes include bribery and fraud, as well as gambling offences and money laundering. Other crimes included under RICO include obstructing justice, as well as murder for hire and child sexual exploitation.

State-level racketeering involves crimes including murder, abduction, extortion (including threats and threats of violence), arson, robbery (including threats and threats of violence), bribery, and trading in obscene material.

Key takeaways

  • Racketeering is the practice of obtaining, running or committing criminal activities while utilising a company obtained via illicit activity.
  • The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was created by the United States government in October 1970 to combat racketeering.
  • State and federal authorities both have jurisdiction over racketeering cases.
  • Bribery, gambling violations, money laundering, obstructing criminal investigation or justice, sexual exploitation of minors and murder for hire are all examples of racketeering crimes on the federal level.
  • State racketeering involves crimes including murder, abduction, extortion (including threats and threats of violence), arson, robbery (including threats and threats of violence), bribery, and trading in obscene material.

Rackets are illicit businesses run by organised groups. An organised gang may also acquire money from a legitimate firm and utilise it for nefarious purposes.. Human trafficking, drug trafficking, illicit arms trade, and counterfeiting are just a few examples of rackets in action.

There are several varieties of racketeering, including:

  • Cyber extortion: This happens when a hacker installs malware on a victim’s computer, preventing them from accessing their system or data. After then, the hacker requests payment to regain control of the system.
  • Protection rackets: A criminal organisation threatens to damage a company or a person unless they pay a protection charge to the organisation or individual.
  • Kidnapping: When a person is unlawfully imprisoned and their captors offer to release the abducted person when a ransom is paid, this is racketeering.
  • Fencing racket: People serve as middlemen to purchase stolen items from criminals at a discount in a fencing scheme. Afterwards, they resale them to unwary customers for a profit.

A common target of racketeering claims has been labour unions. In order to extort money from a corporation or a contractor, criminal gangs often employ one or more labour unions (s). Sometimes, organisations utilise unions to exert control over their employees. La Cosa Nostra, the notorious Italian-American mafia criminal organisation, was well-known for its grip over labour unions. As a result of the gang’s success, both the company’s upper management and the labour union were forced to seek protection from the gangsters.

The RICO Act was created by the United States government in October 1970 in order to stop illicit collaboration and profiteering.

Racketeering is a crime that may be charged against people or organisations depending on the circumstances. If someone is found guilty of a RICO offence, they might face up to 20 years in jail or perhaps life in prison. Other sanctions, such as fines or jail time, may be imposed.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

So, what is RICO act? To fight organised crime in the United States, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970. For racketeering activities committed as part of a criminal enterprise, it authorises prosecution and civil fines to be imposed. Crimes such as gambling and bribery are rampant in today’s world. There are also a slew of other unethical business activities, such as money laundering and drug trafficking.

RICO requires the prosecution to show that the defendant was involved in two or more two instances of racketeering behaviour and that the defendant invested in, had an interest in, or he/she participated in some criminal enterprise that affected interstate or international trade in order to convict them. Members of the Mafia, Hells Angels motorcycle gang, Operation Rescue anti-abortion organisation, and others have all been prosecuted under the statute.

What is a RICO Charge?

The RICO Act has been in effect in the United States since 1970. There is still a danger from Mafia families and other organised criminal groups in the future, even though they are few, particularly in Georgia.

Since its enactment, this legislation has been criticised for penalising those who are suspected of doing crimes on behalf of an illegal group. Although it was first designed to go after the notorious Mafia organisations, its provisions may be used for a wide range of civil and criminal offences.

35 crimes that are associated with the RICO Act

To be clear, the RICO Act only covers crimes committed in some way for a business or for the benefit of one. For the purposes of this legislation, any kind of organisation, union or business may be convicted of violating the provisions thereof, including churches, politicians and nonprofit organisations.

That RICO does not expressly identify which organisations are subject to stringent examination is perhaps one of the most contentious issues people have with it. Instead, it makes all businesses liable for any illegal activities carried out in connection with or on their behalf.

In recent years, RICO has expanded to embrace 35 other types of offences, including:

  • Larceny Crimes: such as theft or robbery
  • Crimes Involving People: Human abduction, murder, enslavement, human smuggling, and witness tampering
  • Money-Related Crimes: a variety of fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, bribery, and payment for hired murder, as well as gambling, counterfeiting, extortion, and illicit debt collection.
  • Other: Various other offences include copyright infringement and falsification of identification documents (passport fraud).

It is also against the law to take part in acts that impair international or interstate business in any way.

It is necessary to show a pattern of action in order to convict someone of a crime under RICO. This indicates that for racketeering to be plausible, at least two incidents must occur during a ten-year period.

Penalties for these crimes

Since the scope of this law has been broadened to cover any kind of business-related pattern of crime, anyone found guilty risks very harsh punishments.

What is racketeering charges? If convicted of a RICO felony, the maximum punishment is 20 years in jail and a $250,000 fine. Drug trafficking or homicide are examples of crimes that carry the death penalty under federal racketeering laws, although other crimes, such as murder, do not. An extra punishment that the criminal may incur is the repercussions of his or her crime. RICO Act mail fraud convictions carry both mail fraud and RICO Act fines, which are added together in the sentencing process.

These objects may be forfeited or seized as part of the penalties:

  • any interest one has acquired through this activity
  • any ownership stake, property/contractual right, security, or claim in the company that is related to the activity
  • any property, including ill-gotten gains through racketeering

Additionally, the legislation specifies the method in which this property can be forfeited and it defines property as follows:

  • Physical property such as homes or businesses
  • Intangible assets such as privileges, securities, or claims.

Additionally, those who violate this legislation lose their titles and rights to any tangible property.

Examples of Racketeering

In December 2020, the Department of Justice announced an indictment against 40 individuals in South Carolina’s biggest federal racketeering case. According to a news statement, accusations against gang members who participated in a criminal operation have been filed. Inmates of the South Carolina Department of Corrections used contraband mobile phones to plot murders, kidnappings, weapon distribution, and a worldwide narcotics network.

Kansas and Missouri counties filed federal racketeering charges against more than twelve opioid drug makers in June 2018. They were accused of fraudulent marketing and illegally dispensing medications. The prosecution said that the firms exaggerated the hazards of addiction in order to maximise their own profits.

FIFA officials and business executives were charged with racketeering conspiracy and corruption in 2015 in connection with bribery and kickbacks paid to gain lucrative broadcast and marketing rights for international soccer events.

Kevin Eleby, a Los Angeles gang boss, was sentenced to twenty five years in federal prison in November 2013 in a RICO case. The criminal group utilised violence and intimidation to gain control of a South Los Angeles housing complex. The RICO trial established that the business participated in drug trafficking, guns trafficking, armed robbery, murder, and witness intimidation in order to exert control and frighten residents of the housing developments.

In July 2017, two ex Baltimore police personnels pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. They were charged with conspiring to steal money, property, and drugs by detaining persons, accessing dwellings, conducting traffic stops, and signing out bogus search warrant affidavits.

Cornel Dawson, the head of a deadly street gang called Black Souls, was sentenced to numerous life terms in a racketeering case in June 2018. Five further gang members were sentenced similarly. The gang was convicted of monopolising a six-block region of Chicago unlawfully. The racketeering conviction resulted from the commission of four murders and participation in drug trafficking.

Racketeering FAQs

  • What is racketeering?

Racketeering manifests itself in a variety of ways. Racketeering activities include murder, financial and economic crimes, money laundering, abduction, sexual exploitation of minors, cyber extortion, bribery, robbery, and drug trafficking.

  • What does the acronym RICO mean?

RICO is an acronym for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, a federal legislation enacted in October 1970 by the United States government.

  • What are the fundamental components of RICO?

The legislation equips law enforcement and prosecutors with the tools necessary to combat organised crime successfully. Federal and state prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt the scope of the crime committed and the participation of individuals responsible before charging them under the RICO Act.

  • How long do you have to serve in prison for racketeering?

Anyone convicted of RICO offences faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if they commit other major crimes. Additionally, fines and penalties may apply.

  • Is the RICO effective?

The RICO Act is critical in the battle against organised crime and racketeering. It enables prosecutors to successfully prosecute criminal companies and organisations, as well as their leaders, even if the actual crimes were committed by others.

  • Charged with RICO Act?

If you are charged with a RICO offence, it is critical to cooperate with a team of lawyers that have expertise prosecuting these cases. The Law Advisory can assist you with experienced RICO and racketeering defence attorneys who will fight tooth and nail to safeguard your rights against wrongful convictions. To get started, contact us now.

We hope by now you will be having a much better understanding of what is a RICO charge and its whereabouts.

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