Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act is better known as RICO in federal court is an act that targets criminal organizations. Using this act, prosecutors can now try mafia crimes together rather than individually. Prior to this Act being passed in 1970, prosecutors were forced to try mafia related crimes individually, which limited them to only trying singular criminals rather than being able to shut down or significantly damage an entire enterprise. RICO allows the prosecutor to go after all of the individuals involved in a corrupt organization such as the Mafia, which better helps them shut down or damage the entire organization. Prosecutors have used RICO to go after many forms of organized crime such as street gangs, gang cartels and even corrupt governmental organizations.
In order to violate RICO a person has to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity relating to the criminal enterprise. This activity could be gambling, murdering, kidnapping, drug dealing, bribery and more. Included in the racketeering activities are mail and wire fraud, both of which are broad in their definitions allowing for a much wider range of crimes to fall under them. All of the racketeering activities are called predicate offenses and in order to charge them under RICO at least two predicate offenses have to be committed in 10 years. These two crimes must be both related and continuous. This means that they have to have similar characteristics and that they must have occurred in a similar time frame to each other.
In order to violate RICO and be charged, there has to be some sort of criminal enterprise. This enterprise could be a street gang; it could be the Mafia, or even a corporation or political party—the enterprise just has to be an entity on its own. This separates the individual from the larger entity as a whole and allows the government the ability to damage the organization as a whole and not just prosecute the individuals involved in the commission of the crime.
If you are convicted under the RICO Act, you can face up to 20 years in prison and have serious financial penalties. If convicted, the financial penalties could be a fine of $250,000 or double the amount of profit earned from the activity. Additionally, after a conviction under RICO the government is given all of the defendant’s interests meaning that the defendant loses their money and property that can be traced back to criminal activity. The defendant can feel the pain of losing their assets even before trial, meaning that while they are facing charges under RICO they may not have any of their own assets with which to fight.
If you or a loved one is facing a RICO charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.