On October 15, 1970, the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 became a law. In this Act is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Statute, better known as the RICO statute. The RICO statute’s purpose is to eliminate the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce. Originally, its purpose was to prosecute the Mafia and other organizations that were engaged in organized crime; now, however, its application is a lot more widespread.
Racketeering and Racketeers
Racketeering is when organized groups, such as the Mafia, run illegal businesses, also known as rackets, or when they use real businesses to embezzle funds. In the beginning, racketeering took place in industries that were illegal such as prostitution, illegal weapons trafficking, and sex and drug trafficking. In time, however, it progressed to other kinds of businesses where racketeers, or mob bosses, would infiltrate the corporate world and use their positions to rob the corporation and its employees by doing things like stealing funds from their workers’ pensions or from their other benefits accounts.
How RICO works
It’s not just organizations like the Mafia that can be charged under RICO; individuals can be charged as well. A person can be charged with racketeering if they have committed two of the 27 federal and 8 state crimes in US Legislation within a 10-year period; these crimes include gambling, murder, arson, drug dealing and bribery among others. Most importantly, mail and wire fraud are included on the list; all of these crimes combined are known as “predicate” offenses. Before RICO was passed, law enforcement could only arrest the people who were actually committing the crimes on the streets such as the people who were committing the robberies, or selling the illegal guns, or those who forced women into prostitution. They couldn’t charge the masterminds of the crimes themselves because they couldn’t link them to the illegal activities. RICO helped law enforcement because it allows prosecutors to charge the individuals who own or control an organization, not just those individuals who are actually performing the illegal activities.
Gang Members Can Be Charged under RICO
On December 20, 2013 a South Los Angeles Gang member, Rondale Young, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for shooting an innocent man and killing him in front of his 2-year-old child. His conviction was part of a larger federal operation against the Pueblo Bishop Bloods, the gang he was associated with. Young drove the car with armed gang members into rival gang territory where they killed the man because he appeared to be Hispanic. His and his codefendant’s convictions are the first time that a Bloods or Crips gang was prosecuted in the Los Angeles Federal District using the RICO statute. Overall, using the RICO statute, 45 members of the gang were indicted and 41 were convicted.
Victims of Racketeers
The RICO statute also provides a civil suit component for victims. These victims can include the relatives of people who were murdered, people who were extorted, employers whose workers were bribed, and victims of loan sharks. These victims can sue the racketeer for damages because of the nature of the crimes that were committed. If the racketeer is convicted, they are held responsible for compensation to the victims. They have to pay the victim at a rate triple to that of the damages as well as pay for their attorney and legal fees. The racketeer also has to hand over any profits made from their crimes.
RICO and the Statute of Limitations
The RICO statute in itself does not contain a statute of limitations, however, the Supreme Court in the Agency Holding Corp. v. Malley Duff & Associates, Inc., held that civil RICO claims are subject to a four-year statute of limitations which begins at the time that the victim discovers their damages. For criminal cases, the statute of limitations is 5 years from the date the crime committed is committed.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a criminal offense under the RICO statute, contact Orange County criminal defense attorney Karren Kenney for assistance.