The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known as “RICO”, was passed in 1970 in order to make it easier for officials to prosecute those involved in organized crime. RICO allows a special charge for people who engage in certain crimes as part of a larger scheme, rather than someone who commits a crime for the purpose of the crime itself. RICO charges are very serious, which is why it is important to contact a knowledgeable racketeering attorney if you are being investigated for or have been charged with a RICO violation.
History of RICO
RICO came about as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 in an effort to combat the Mafia and other organized crimes, though now the act has been used for many other purposes as well. The problem was that members of organized criminal groups would only be able to be charged and prosecuted for the discrete offenses.
RICO charges are brought when someone is involved in an organized criminal enterprise. Specifically, people who have committed “at least two acts of racketeering activity” can be charged under the Act. Racketeering is the commission of certain crimes as part of an enterprise. Some of the offenses that can be part of a racketeering charge include kidnapping, homicide, robbery, arson, extortion, and witness tampering. These crimes can also be charged as individual crimes.
One of the main difficulties for officials in prosecuting RICO cases is proving that there is a criminal enterprise that the defendant is affiliated with, rather than discrete individual crimes.
Penalties for Violations
RICO has both civil and criminal penalties that can be imposed on people found guilty of racketeering. The criminal penalties include a prison sentence of 20 years or even life in prison if one of the underlying crimes that make up the racketeering charge is punishable by life in prison. Violators can also face fines up to a quarter of a million dollars or twice the amount of money that was unlawfully obtained from the activity.
Those who have been victimized by racketeering can directly sue the perpetrators in civil court. Defendants that are found guilty may have to pay up to three times the amount of money that the plaintiff lost due to the defendant’s activity.
Reach Out to Us for Help Today
If you are concerned that you may be charged with a violation of the RICO Act, you should contact a skilled racketeering attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights during the investigation and prosecution. Our experienced racketeering attorneys at The Skier Law Firm in West Palm Beach, Florida will zealously defend you against any criminal charges.