What Are RICO Cases? – A Guide to Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Charges

In terms of white-collar crimes in the US Justice system, RICO cases are among the most serious. The government will use all resources at their disposal to pursue a RICO case against you if they have the evidence to do so. Luckily, there are ways to arm yourself against legal action—through the legal protection of a skilled defense team. Read on to learn more about: 

  • The RICO Act and What it Entails; 
  • Examples of RICO Cases in the United States; and 
  • Building Your RICO Defense Team with the Strongest Lawyers You Can Find.

 

An Overview of the RICO Act

The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act went into effect in 1970 in an effort to combat organized crime and criminal enterprises. Though groups like the Gambino, Lucchese, and Bonanno crime families were subject to RICO charges, traditional mafia families aren’t the sole targets of racketeering charges. 

First, let’s look at the components of what this act targets, starting with racketeering. “Rackets” are any illegal business owned by an organized group. Said businesses contribute their funds to the organization in an effort to ensure its continuity. The act of racketeering refers to when an organization starts a series of illegal businesses; to legally convict someone requires the government to prove a person’s investment and interest in a criminal enterprise and its business practices. 

 

The types of businesses this act targets are those dealing with prostitution, drug or human trafficking, counterfeit organizations, or weapons trading. Modern forms of illegal businesses may involve cyber elements or advanced extortion tactics involving malware. More traditional and long-observed forms also include kidnap and ransom, upselling of stolen goods, and protection rackets (extortion through the threat of harm unless paid a fee). 

RICO cases are very complicated and may involve a lot of steps. For one, the government is quick to take a few steps to freeze assets and halt any further business activity. Injunctions (a restraining order from doing a certain thing) are their friend, and they’ll hand them out if they think there’s the possibility you’re guilty of racketeering. 

 

It’s not uncommon for RICO cases to invite lawsuits from affected individuals. The person filing the suit must demonstrate the accused racketeer meets a few conditions: 

  • There is a criminal enterprise in existence; 
  • The alleged racketeer exists independently of the enterprise; and
  • Was either an investor, controlling party, participator, or conspirator in the enterprise. 

 

In other words, the alleged racketeer must have had some type of interest or use for the enterprise that ultimately had a negative impact on the plaintiff. Damage recovery in RICO cases may rise to the tune of three times the actual amount lost. 

So, yes: RICO cases are complicated. If you’re charged, sent to trial, and don’t employ the best legal help possible, you may end up owing more than you have in recovery. 

 

Popular Examples of RICO Cases in the United States

The following are a few notable RICO cases known for their impact on the legal system and popular appeal. As you’ll see, there’s a mix of gang-related ‘mob’ crime and crime committed by legitimate organizations otherwise known to the public. 

 

Organization/Case:

Crimes Committed:

Penalties:

 

The Mafia Commission Trial (11 Organized Crime Officials, Heads of the Five Families in New York City)

 

 

 

Extortion, labor racketeering, and murder for hire

 

 

Hundreds of years of accumulated prison sentences

 

 

The Gambino Crime Family

 

 

Racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice

 

 

Multiple life sentences for convicted parties

 

Former Judge Mark Ciavarella

 

 

Mail and wire fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, honest services fraud.

 

 

28 years in prison, disbarment, multiple lawsuits, a class action lawsuit

 

FIFA Affiliates

(Collecting Illegal Bribes)

 

47 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, money laundering

 

 

More than $40 million in forfeitures

 

Scott W. Rothstein’s

$1.2 Billion Ponzi Scheme

 

 

Racketeering, fraud, conspiracy

 

50-year prison sentence, millions of dollars in returns

 

State Senator Len Fasano

 

 

Bankruptcy Fraud

 

$500,000 in fines

 

The more crimes an organization commits, the higher their penalties. Since the dissolution of many of this country’s major crime organizations, the US Government has been determined to demonstrate the full power of RICO on seemingly reputable citizens: using their resources to uncover beneath-the-surface practices that may otherwise spell legal trouble in the future. 

 

Your Defense Against RICO: Fighting Against Every Hurdle 

If the penalties above don’t paint the picture enough, the lengths to which federal prosecutors will go to pursue a RICO case should. You face down a few goliaths when a RICO case comes knocking at your door: large forfeitures, decades of jail time, fines, and other professional consequences. It would be ill-advised not to have your own legal force behind you the entire time. 

Your defense team will attack the prosecution’s racketeering claims and search for all the weak spots in their argument. However, a RICO accusation needs to be air-tight in order for the prosecution to even have a case in the first place. In this, they need to prove a few things to satisfy the legal definition of racketeering: the existence of an enterprise, its effect on commerce, your employment with the enterprise, and proof of racketeering

 

RICO does not apply if the prosecution cannot show you committed at least two acts of racketeering within 10 years. Proving this may be easier said than done, of course, considering the government’s focus and dedication to investigating RICO-related cases. 

This is where your defense team comes in: strategy-oriented, compassionate, and aggressive lawyers with the legal experience to attack your RICO case head-on. No pattern of racketeering in your past? Your team will craft an expert defense strategy to push for your freedom. If you did not knowingly or intend to participate in criminal activities, your legal team will mount a defense. Are you fully innocent but need to meet the government with something more than “I didn’t do it?” Your attorneys will make sure the case is full, thought out, and well-presented. 

 

Contact our offices for a free initial consultation if you find yourself on the receiving end of government charges threatening major legal action. Our lawyers will give your case the time it deserves and make sure you feel confident in your future.

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