Earlier this summer, federal prosecutors charged over four dozen people with crimes related to alleged Mafia ties. The indictment names a number of stereotypical Mafia crimes, including loan sharking, extortion, sports gambling, casino style gambling, health care fraud and credit card fraud. In West Palm Beach, Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino was arrested and held without bail. Alleged to be the head of the Philadelphia Mob, Merlino has previously served 12 years in prison for racketeering. Merlino was accused of being part of a health care fraud scheme. Besides the specific crimes that everyone was charged with, because they were allegedly part of an organized crime scheme, the defendants may also end up facing racketeering charges.
What is Racketeering?
Racketeering, generally, is “Traditionally, obtaining or extorting money illegally or carrying on illegal business activities, usually by organized crime. A pattern of illegal activity carried out as part of an enterprise that is owned or controlled by those who are engaged in the illegal activity.” One example of classic organized crime racketeering is a scheme where members of the criminal organization slash all the tires on a street and then charge everyone who parks on that street for “protection” against the tire slashing. Racketeering is meant to apply to many different kinds of organized crime activities, many of which were named in the indictment above. For example, under federal law racketeering applies to bribery, wire fraud, money laundering, and many other kinds of illegal activities that involve organized crime. In order to fully understand what racketeering is, it is important to understand the history of the law and what led up to the creation of the federal law against racketeering.
RICO and Its History
In 1970 the U.S. Congress passed the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, otherwise known as “RICO”. RICO was passed in order to fight the increased power of organized crime. Organized crime started its rise to power in the early 1920s during prohibition and its aftermath after alcohol was legalized in the United States again. During the 50 years between the start of prohibition and the passage of RICO, organized crime had become a major problem in the U.S. and Congress wanted a way to prosecute people who participated in organized crime. RICO, and racketeering charges in particular, is one of the federal government’s major weapons against organized crime.
The penalties for being convicted of racketeering are very harsh. If someone is convicted of racketeering he or she will face a fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to 20 years in prison.
West Palm Beach Racketeering Attorneys
If you are charged with racketeering, or any other crimes related to alleged “organized crime activity, you should contact a knowledgeable racketeering attorney as soon as possible. Our experienced West Palm Beach racketeering attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A., can help protect your rights against RICO or any other criminal charges.