Enacted in 1970, the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (RICO) was originally intended as a prosecutorial tool to be used against cases involving organized crime.
While RICO does not get employed much against mafia organizations or organized crime outfits to the same extent as it did in the 1970s, RICO still gets used in cases involving criminal conspiracy and organization, including legitimate businesses and government entities.
RICO operates by charging any and all individuals accused of operating or being a part of racketeering, the pattern of scheming through illegal activity with the intent of profit. In simple terms, RICO acts as a big firehose used to dose an entire burning building instead of spraying into just one window.
RICO works on the idea that everyone involved in a racketeering conspiracy can be charged with the crimes of that conspiracy, even if only a few people were actually committing the crimes while everyone else just looked the other way.
RICO prohibits anyone from:
• Using income earned from racketeering activity to acquire an interest in an enterprise affecting interstate commerce.
For example, a person uses funds earned from the sale of illegally acquired data to invest in an interstate transit business.
• Acquiring or maintaining funds through a pattern of racketeering activity.
• Participating, coordinating, or even directing racketeering activities.
• Participating in any activities involved with racketeering.
This part specifically includes anyone and everyone that had even the smallest role to play in the racketeering conspiracy.
If a person delivered clandestine messages between members actively participating in the conspiracy, that messenger could be charged as part of the conspiracy regardless of their day-to-day involvement with the conspiracy.
As of January 2023, 35 specific crimes qualify as meeting RICO Act requirements. Those crimes include:
• Arson, specifically the act of property damage in the name of threats or fraud.
• Counterfeiting, which can apply to situations other than creating false currency.
• Fraud, including various fraud types such as bankruptcy, insurance, and securities.
• Human Trafficking, with separate emphasis placed on whether the trafficking was committed in relation to work fraud or sexual crimes.
• Money Laundering, or the act of hiding funds earned through illegal activities to appear as having been generated through legal means.
• Obstruction of Justice
While every RICO charge applies to a unique case and situation, every single count of racketeering can mean a maximum of 20 years in jail.
So multiply the number of charges being made by 20, then multiply the number of individuals being charged for each count, and the penalties can become very large and severe very quickly.
In addition to prison, RICO convictions may also require the convicted individuals to surrender any and all assets earned through racketeering. Referred to as criminal forfeiture, it would require a convicted individual to forfeit any houses, properties, vehicles, and other belongings paid for by the racketeering activities.
To find out more about RICO violations and penalties, or if you have any questions concerning RICO laws, contact Farkas and Crowley P.A. today.
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