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Federal RICO Defense Attorney

October 12, 2021
Do You Need a Federal RICO Defense Attorney?

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was passed in 1970. It gave law enforcement the leverage to take on organized crime and contain it.

If the prosecution can establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendants participated in and profited from criminal activities, they can then apply those charges to the RICO Act.

What Is Racketeering?

Illegal businesses are called rackets. Broadly speaking, racketeering means:

  • Acquiring a business through crimes like extortion
  • Using illegally-derived money to run a legitimate business
  • Using legally-derived money to run a criminal enterprise
  • Using a business as a front for a criminal operation

Common rackets include human trafficking, prostitution, drug trafficking, illegal weapons trade and counterfeiting.

Racketeering is prosecuted at both the state and federal levels. If you have profited because of racketeering activities, then the RICO Act may apply to you.

Which Crimes Are RICO Violations?

Here are some examples of racketeering at the federal level:

  • Bribery
  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Running an illegal gambling operation
  • Money laundering
  • White collar crime
  • Financial and economic crime
  • Sexual exploitation of children
  • Murder for hire
  • Obstruction of justice

Here are some examples of racketeering at the state level:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Extortion
  • Kidnapping
  • Gambling
  • Bribery
  • Drug crimes
  • Robbery
  • Pornography

Racketeering is at play when cybercriminals take over your computer and lock you out until you pay a ransom. Fencing rackets involve thieves who steal property and sell it to intermediaries on the cheap. The intermediaries then resell the goods to unsuspecting buyers at a sizeable profit.

Protection rackets involve threatening someone with harm unless they pay for protection. Kidnapping rackets involve stealing individuals and setting them free only after a ransom is paid.

Corporations can be as guilty of racketeering as career criminals. A pharmaceutical company might disburse financial incentives to physicians who push the company’s drugs. This profits both the physician and the pharmaceutical company while defrauding patients and their insurance companies.

How Does The RICO Act Work?

The Department of Justice (DOJ) requires the prosecution to prove certain things beyond a reasonable doubt before the defendants can be found guilty of violating the RICO statute:

  • An enterprise existed.
  • That enterprise conducted business across state lines.
  • The defendant was either employed by or associating with a criminal operation.
  • The defendant engaged in racketeering and participated in at least two separate racketeering activities.

Why Was the RICO Act Passed?

RICO was initially enacted to help law enforcement crack down on organized crime and other criminal enterprises. With RICO, prosecutors could sue an entire racket at once instead of trying individual racketeers separately.

Prosecutors can now seize the assets of indicted individuals and prevent them from moving funds and properties through shell companies. The ringleaders may be charged with crimes they compel others to commit.

Defendants can be charged through RICO after two acts of racketeering activity. One act must have occurred after 1970 when the Act was made law. The second act must have occurred within 10 years of the first act.

If convicted, the defendants can receive 20 years or more in prison and crippling fines for each count of racketeering activity. Federal racketeering crimes can be prosecuted at both the state and federal levels. Federal crime sentences are more severe than those imposed by the state.

Has the RICO Act Been Effective?

The RICO Act has helped law enforcement to reduce the incidence of racketeering and organized crime in the U.S. Prosecutors can effectively target criminal enterprises as well as their leaders, even if those leaders had other individuals commit crimes for them.

When Do You Need a RICO Defense Attorney?

If you have been charged with a RICO violation, contact an experienced federal racketeering (RICO) lawyer at once. RICO violations are probably the most serious and dangerous charges you can face. They are also the most challenging charges to defend in court.

Because your assets can be frozen and seized, financial hardship can make matters significantly worse. The prosecutors don’t have to prove that you committed a crime. They only need to show that you engaged in activities related to a crime.

RICO defenses are similar to those employed in federal drug conspiracy charges. Your attorney can prove your factual innocence, show that the prosecution’s evidence against you is not enough to prove that you are guilty, expose an illegal police procedure or show that you were unaware of any criminal activity.

Federal Racketeering RICO Attorney

This is a complex statute which requires many years of experience in order to properly handle. Federal RICO lawyers you speak to must be able to demonstrate that they can handle your federal criminal RICO indictment, or civil RICO claim. Many attorneys think they can handle a RICO claim, but have zero experience – and have no understanding of the statutes.

The RICO law addresses all forms of organized crime, and sometimes can be used to go after legitimate companies that are involved in legitimate business. The fact is, RICO can be used across the board to distress legitimate businesses, and can result in criminal charges, severe financial fines, in addition to tarnishing your reputation, and can also result in lengthy prison times.

The RICO Act encompasses a bunch of different crimes such as bribery, securities fraud, drug crimes, sex offenses, illegal gambling, and more. In order to secure a conviction, prosecutors will try to find evidence that the defendant committed two of the listed crimes, or two counts of a single crime, within a period of time.

RICO Conspiracy

This is a powerful tool used by prosecutors. Under Section 1962 of Title 18 U.S.C., it’s a crime to conspire to break any of the Act’s provisions. There is a difference between RICO conspiracy and general federal conspiracy. Under the general federal statute, it’s a crime if you agree with others to commit a crime – but the agreement should have the same objective. The general conspiracy statute is not as effective as the RICO conspiracy statute.

What are the requirements for federal RICO charges?

Under 18 USC 1962, there are four main violations which can be charged. The most common ground under which a RICO charge will be filed is through 1962(c). The section says it’s unlawful for the employee, or associate, of an enterprise to participate in a pattern of racketeering. In short, a RICO violation happens when a person employed or associated with a company/enterprise, where the activities of the company/enterprise participate directly or indirectly in the enterprise. These activities form a pattern of unlawful racketeering activities.

 

  • Subsection 1962(a) – money laundering
  • Subsection 1962(b) – loan sharking
  • Subsection 1962(d) – conspiracy

If you’re convicted of a criminal offense under RICO, the maximum punishment for a single violation is a 20 year prison sentence, and a fine of $250,000 or 2x the ill-gotten gains. If certain offenses were involved, then the prison sentence can be changed to life in prison. RICO also permits the forfeiture of property gained due to the crime, or any interest in the enterprise.

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Primarily enacted as a criminal statute, the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act (RICO) includes a civil provision within Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. This section authorizes private treble-damage actions, which permits courts to award three time the amount of damages that a plaintiff requests.

For years since the passing of this law, the civil provision has rarely been used. However, claims are being filed to use this provision in contexts that are far removed from the original vision of addressing racketeering and organized crime.

What is RICO Law?

RICO law is the prosecution and defense of individuals who participate in organized crime activities. The law was passed by Congress in 1970 as a way to combat Mafia groups. Since that time, the legal system has expanded the law. Now, it is also used to go after other organizations from motorcycle gangs to corrupt police departments.

One thing that distinguishes RICO from other criminal or civil laws is the way it is applied. Rather than pursue an isolated criminal act, prosecutors look for a pattern of wrongdoing among individuals who are members of a criminal enterprise.

The collection of RICO laws include severe consequences when the economic activities of criminal organizations involve illegal activity, known as racketeering. Being convicted for a RICO violation includes heavy fines, financial restitution for victims and up to 20 years in prison. Conviction also calls for the dissolution of the organization.

The following crimes qualify as racketeering and are listed in federal and state statutes:

• Counterfeiting
Drug trafficking
Embezzlement
• Fraud
• Gambling
• Kidnapping
• Murder
• Theft

Anyone who is injured by a RICO violation, whether it is their business or property, may file a civil suit. They have the right to seek a compulsory award that is three times the damages, costs and attorney’s fees for the lawsuit.

Proving a Civil RICO Claim

To have a successful civil RICO claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove two thing:

1. The plaintiff suffered an injury to his or her business or property
2. The injury was closely caused because the defendant violated the RICO statute

Being a defendant in a civil RICO claim does not mean that you were also criminally convicted. However, the plaintiff must prove there was concrete financial loss.

Elements of a RICO Claim

Liability for a violation of RICO requires the individual to be involved in an organization that has a pattern of racketeering activity. To prove this, there are specific elements that apply: enterprise, predicate acts, a pattern of racketeering activity and continuity.

Enterprise

Determining the enterprise is the first step for a RICO case. The enterprise involved in a RICO claim can either be legitimate or illegitimate. Additionally, it may also be a loosely associated group or a corporate entity.

Other technicalities such as defendant/enterprise distinction and the essential connection to predicate acts must be part of the plaintiff’s strategy. A defense attorney will attempt to deconstruct an alleged enterprise that does not meet the terms of the technicalities.

Predicate Acts

Predicate acts is another element required in all RICO claims. These acts of racketeering activities are independently illegal crimes. Some of the offenses include in this group are:

• Bribery
• Extortion
• Kickback
• Mail and wire fraud
• Money laundering
• Illegal gambling

The plaintiff must define predicate acts while also making sure the actions occurred within the statute of limitation period. An attorney for the defendant must question whether certain predicates were sufficiently pled according to Rule 9(b) of the federal law’s Rules of Civil Procedure. In the past, Rico has been used to even go after companies that do payday loans and cash advances.

Pattern of Racketeering Activity

For a RICO claim to be successful, predicate acts of racketeering must form a pattern where more than two acts occurred. Generally, the alleged enterprise must have committed the predicate acts or proceeds from those acts were invested into the enterprise.

Continuity

Another element, continuity, means the activity is ongoing or has occurred over a substantial amount of time. There are several way for this to be established, including the fact that racketeering is the enterprise’s way of conducting business.

Why Spodek Law Group, PC is Right for Your Case

Not every lawyer can handle the intricacies of RICO law to build a successful defense for their client. At Spodek Law Group, PC, we know RICO law and we know what it takes to overcome a civil action. Contact our firm today so we can have the opportunity to help you.

 

References:

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/r/racketeering.asp
https://www.britannica.com/topic/Racketeer-Influenced-and-Corrupt-Organizations-Act

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