The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was passed in the 1970s and is a federal law created to combat criminal organizations. Before the RICO Act, prosecutors had to try organized crime mobsters individually and were unable to go after the entire organization as a unit. After the passing of the RICO Act, the government is now able to arrest and try anyone associated with a corrupt organization.
If the prosecution wants to convict someone using RICO, then they have to prove that the defendant was involved in racketeering instances two or more times and that the defendant maintained a relationship with a criminal enterprise that affected interstate or foreign commerce. Initially, RICO was enacted to fight organized crime mafias but now it’s usage has become more widespread.
RICO Criminal Penalties
RICO claims can be made criminally or civilly. In criminal proceedings, the state and the federal government can bring charges against an individual working in a criminal enterprise. The RICO Act outlines 35 crimes that comprise of racketeering for a criminal enterprise including gambling, murder, kidnapping, drug dealing, arson, bribery, and more. These offenses are considered predicatory offenses because they’re involved in a larger crime. Committing any of these 35 offenses, twice in a 10-year span, could result in a RICO charge.
The government does not need to prove that the defendant conspired with all of the other members of the criminal organization in order to charge RICO. The government also no longer needs to prove that a subject personally committed an illegal act. The government only needs to prove that the defendant owns or manages an organization that routinely performs one or more illegal activities.
The RICO criminal statute carries penalties of 20 years imprisonment and if the underlying crime calls for it, the sentence can be expanded to life. The financial penalties are $250,000 or up to double the amount of the proceeds earned from the activity. The act also allows the federal government to freeze assets, before the case even goes to trial, to ensure their recovery in the event of a conviction.
Civil RICO Claims
A private party can bring a civil suit if they are the victim of a criminal organization but it could be costly. Winning plaintiffs may recover up to three times the damages they lost as a result. It’s possible to win a civil RICO Claim if the victim can demonstrate:
- That the defendant committed one of the 35 criminal acts allowed in the RICO Act.
- The defendant shows a pattern of committing at least two or more crimes that are related in some way.
- The crimes were committed within the Supreme Court’s four-year statute of limitations on RICO cases and the countdown begins when the victim discovers their damages.
Demonstrating a RICO case can be complex. Therefore, it’s essential to speak with a federal crime attorney with experiencing working in federal and state RICO cases.
RICO Claims and Specifics
There has been plenty of controversy in determining what constitutes a criminal organization. It’s easier to determine legal organizations’ connections when trying RICO cases but what about criminal organizations? How can the courts establish a gang as an organization? The Supreme Court found that any group of associated members to achieve a common purpose is an organization. In the RICO statutes, these organizations are referred to as “associate-in-fact” organizations.
The Supreme Court also decided that in order for a pattern of racketeering to be established for a RICO case, the criminal activities must be continuous and related. The crimes can be considered continuous if the crimes occur over an amount of time. Those crimes can be considered relative if they have similar perpetrators, victims, and methods.
Federal Crime Attorney
If you’ve been a victim of a criminal organization or need assistance in defending a case brought against you in the state of California, it’s imperative to speak with a RICO attorney as soon as possible. A Federal Crime Attorney in San Diego will ensure that all intricacies of the RICO Act are examined in your case.