Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act - Explained
What is the RICO Act?
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What is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)?
This law imposes criminal and civil liability upon those businesspersons who engage in certain prohibited activities that directly affect interstate commerce.
RICO is commonly used to impose criminal sanctions and forfeiture of resources used in furtherance of the criminal enterprise.
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What are the elements of RICO?
Elements of a RICO action include:
- Involvement in an Enterprise - This may include using or investing income from prohibited activities to acquire an interest in or to operate an enterprise; acquiring or maintaining an interest in or control of an enterprise; or conducting or participating in the conduct of an enterprise while being employed by or associated with it.
- Pattern of Racketeering - Racketeering is defined as any act or threat involving a specified state crime or any act subject to an indictment under various federal statutes. There must be some pattern of or recurring activity constituting racketeering.
The law makes it unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise to conduct or participate in a violation of the law.
The law foresees two separate entities person and the enterprise. Generally, employment alone is insufficient to hold someone liable under RICO.
What is the History of RICO?
In order to combat organized crime in the United States, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which is popularly called RICO, was passed in 1970.
As part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of this Act.
By design, RICO as a federal law, allows prosecution, criminal penalties, and civil punishments for racketeering activity performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.
Racketeering activity has to do with crimes committed through extortion or coercions, it is usually associated with organized crimes.
RICO's provisions include trials for leaders of racketeering groups.
So, the leader necessary doesn't have to execute the criminal act but because he gave the orders.
Racketeering acts are organized crimes that involve the use of intimidation and force to extort things of financial values from people.
For a person to be charged with racketeering, they must have a record of at least two acts of racketeering drawn from a list of 35 crimes, both federal and state within a period of 10 years.
A fine of $25,000 and 20 years of imprisonment can be meted out to a person convicted of racketeering.
Private individuals who suffer damages in business or property due to racketeering acts are also permitted by RICO to file a civil suit.
What are State RICO Laws?
In 1972, after the RICO Act has been enacted, a total number of 33 states.
These state RICO laws are also referred to as Little RICO Acts. T
RICO predicate offenses
Offenses that can be prosecuted under RICO laws both at the state and federal level are all forms of racketeering activities and any violation of the statutes of a state.
Such violations include extortion, gambling, murder, bribery, kidnapping, arson, robbery, and false dealings.
Other offenses that are also commonly prosecuted under RICO laws are:
- Embezzlement and fraud,
- Money laundering and gambling,
- Criminal copyright infringement,
- Drug trafficking,
- Obscene dealings,
- Security fraud and bankruptcy fraud,
- Bribery and theft, and other racketeering acts.
All the criminal acts listed above are regarded as RICO predicate offenses and individuals guilty of any of the crimes are liable to prosecution and punishments.
Do you think this statute goes too far by allowing the government to charge individuals who are not directly involved in criminal activity? Is the ability to reach those facilitating a criminal activity (and their assets) necessary to the administration of justice?
- Some might argue that RICO is far too broad in its reach. It allows law enforcement extensive reach in charging anyone connected with a criminal enterprise in any way. It also allows for the seizure of assets from anyone implicated in the crime. Most would agree that granting this wide reach is necessary for the efficient administration of justice, others would argue that it infringes upon individual liberties. Some might also argue that it grants the government too much power and invites abuse.
Gloria makes a living by illegally importing cocaine into Florida from Colombia, SA. She does not have any hands on the process. Rather, she hires every part of the activity. Once the drugs arrive, she hires Terry to pack them in the trunk of a car and sends them to a distributor in New York. She hires Robert to drive the vehicle carrying the drugs. On the way, Robert is stopped and arrested by North Carolina police officers. The Federal Bureau of Investigation gets involved and traces the scheme back to Gloria. How can the FBI potentially charge Gloria for her involvement in drug trafficking?
- The FBI can likely charge Gloria with the involvement in an illegal enterprise as prohibited under the provisions of the RICO Act. To convict a defendant under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the government must prove that the defendant engaged in two or more instances of racketeering activity and that the defendant directly invested in, maintained an interest in, or participated in a criminal enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce. The RICO also provides that it is unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any laws that prohibit racketeering activities under the law. Gloria participated in, financed, and associated with an illegal enterprise with the sole aim of making profits. The fact that Gloria did not personally handle the drugs is not relevant, however, what is important is that she hires/pays for every service provided by the persons who help pack, repackage, and transport and sell the drugs. https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/content/rico-act.html
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- Crimes Against the Property of Others
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- Common Types of Business Fraud
- False Statement as a Criminal Charge
- Conspiracy as a Criminal Charge
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- Aiding and Abetting or Conspiracy to a Crime