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What is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)?

The RICO Act is a federal law that was passed in 1970 to combat organized crime and is abbreviated as “RICO.” Traditionally, organized crime brings to mind the Mafia for which it was created. However, RICO has evolved over the years and has been applied to a variety of criminal enterprises. 

RICO allows the lowest level participants in a criminal organization to face similar consequences as the leaders. RICO enables the federal government to bring charges against numerous individuals for a wide range of activities that it determines are part of an “ongoing criminal enterprise.” That definition has continuously expanded over the years.

What is racketeering?

The term racketeering refers to illegal activities, especially those that involve extortion. Racketeering is a crime that involves illegally obtaining or controlling a business through various crimes or unlawful income. These illegal methods are used to fuel a business are commonly called “rackets.” 

What charges are often associated with RICO?

The following are some examples of racketeering activities set forth in Title 18, Section 1961 of the United States Code:

  • Homicide, kidnapping, extortion, witness tampering, securities fraud, healthcare fraud, mail and wire fraud, gambling, bribery, money laundering, counterfeiting, embezzlement, and drug trafficking, etc. 

To convict a defendant under RICO, the government must show that he or she participated in two or more instances of racketeering behavior, such as any of the activities listed above. The government must also prove that the defendant was part of a criminal organization.

Getting help against RICO charges

Facing RICO charges comes with challenges for both the defendant and the government. It is not easy to prove that a criminal enterprise exists and that one is a member. However, if the government can make their case it can come with some severe consequences for the convicted. Learning more about your defense options is essential.