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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.
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:
• Drug trafficking
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
• 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.
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.
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.
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