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What are the punishments for federal racketeering charges in New York?

By Spodek Law Group | October 16, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 17, 2023)

Last Updated on: 17th October 2023, 05:46 pm

Punishments for Federal Racketeering Charges in New York

Racketeering, also known as RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), refers to participating in a pattern of illegal activities by an organized criminal enterprise. Racketeering charges are very serious and carry severe penalties at both the federal and state level in New York. This article will provide an overview of federal racketeering laws, potential punishments, and defenses.

What is Racketeering?

Racketeering involves participating in an ongoing criminal organization or enterprise that engages in illegal activities for financial gain[1]. Common racketeering crimes include[2]:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Money laundering
  • Bribery
  • Extortion
  • Embezzlement
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Counterfeiting
  • Obstruction of justice

To be charged with racketeering, the illegal acts must form an ongoing pattern, not just be isolated incidents. The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act makes it a crime to engage in a “pattern of racketeering activity” connected to an enterprise[3]. An enterprise can be a legal entity like a business or corporation, or an association of individuals[4].

The RICO Act was originally aimed at prosecuting organized crime operations, but has expanded to cover other forms of racketeering as well[5].

Federal Racketeering Penalties

Convictions under the federal RICO Act carry severe punishments[3]:

  • Up to 20 years in prison per racketeering count
  • Fines of up to $25,000 per count

In addition:

  • All assets and proceeds from racketeering can be seized through forfeiture
  • Restitution may be ordered to compensate victims

Defendants can face multiple RICO counts for different criminal acts, leading to lengthy total sentences. For example, in a major 2021 case involving the Colombo organized crime family, defendants received federal sentences ranging from 4 to 12 years[4].

If other related crimes like murder or kidnapping were committed during racketeering activities, additional charges and punishments apply. These can include life sentences for violent crimes[5].

Racketeering in New York State

In addition to federal charges, New York has its own state racketeering laws under Penal Law Article 460 prohibiting enterprise corruption. Charges and punishments under state law include[3]:

  • Class B felony: up to 25 years in prison
  • Class A-1 felony: minimum 15 years, maximum life without parole
  • Fines up to $5,000 – $25,000
  • Forfeiture of all profits from criminal activities
  • Restitution to victims for triple damages

Like at the federal level, other related crimes committed under racketeering can lead to additional state charges and sentences.

Defenses Against Racketeering Charges

Convictions for racketeering often result in severe punishments like lengthy prison sentences and major financial penalties. Building an effective legal defense is critical. Possible defenses include[5]:

  • No criminal enterprise: No evidence of an associated ongoing criminal organization.
  • No pattern: Sporadic crimes don’t show a pattern of racketeering activity.
  • Lack of participation: No evidence the defendant participated in or knew about criminal acts.
  • Duress: Defendant was coerced into racketeering by threats.

Given the complexity of racketeering laws and defenses, working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended if facing charges. An attorney can carefully examine the prosecution’s evidence and identify weaknesses to exploit. They can also negotiate plea bargains for reduced sentences if appropriate.

Racketeering charges should never be taken lightly given the potentially severe punishments and lifelong consequences of a conviction. Having an experienced criminal defense lawyer represent you can make all the difference in these high-stakes cases. They will thoroughly analyze the prosecution’s claims, evidence, and legal arguments to build the strongest defense.

Don’t wait until you are formally indicted on racketeering charges to seek legal help. Consulting with a lawyer as early as possible when you learn you are under investigation allows crucial time to build your defense strategy. An experienced attorney can proactively work to avoid charges altogether or at least mitigate the potential penalties.


Racketeering allegations are extremely serious and require expert legal guidance to avoid lengthy incarceration and financial devastation. Both federal and New York state laws impose harsh punishments for racketeering convictions. But an experienced criminal defense lawyer can carefully examine the prosecution’s case for weaknesses and develop an effective defense strategy. Their legal skills and knowledge of racketeering laws can make the difference between prison time and preserving your freedom. Don’t wait to seek out quality legal representation if you are facing racketeering investigations or charges.

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