Organized crime is generally described as a criminal enterprise where members engage in criminal activity for financial gain. Initially, the federal RICO Act was used by the government to prosecute mob bosses, but now used more broadly for a variety of federal fraud and extortion offenses.
The term “racketeering” is described as members of a criminal organization participating in criminal conduct.
The Organized Crime Control Act contains the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law allowing specific charges against members of the organization.
RICO conspiracy charges are frequently used by federal prosecutors in an attempt to convict many members in the organization for multiple crimes.
It should be noted that recent reports suggest that greatest organized criminal activity within the United States is now the Mexican drug cartels.
Advantages of RICO charges
As stated, a huge advantage of RICO is that it allows a federal prosecutor to indict multiple members of a criminal organization for crimes, even in situation where they didn't commit the crimes themselves. Essentially, a federal prosecutor can use RICO to convict both:
- the minor members of a criminal organization; and
- the leaders who planned and gave out the orders to commit the crimes.
As you can see, federal RICO charges are typically very complicated cases.
Our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing readers a more detailed review below on RICO charges.
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
Successfully defending against federal racketeering charges (RICO), requires an unusually knowledgeable and experienced federal criminal attorney.
The federal racketeering statutes 18 USC Sections 1961 et seq. on which federal district attorneys charge RICO crimes are incredibly complex.
The RICO Act has spawned decades of contentious criminal prosecutions and civil cases over their lawful reach, as prosecutors and civil plaintiffs pushed the Act far beyond its original intended scope.
U.S. Department of Justice confirms that Congress initially intended that RICO charges disable Mafia or other international crime syndicates operating in the U.S., as its RICO acronym name implies.
Hence, the RICO Act defines its predicate crimes to include murder, extortion, kidnapping, and other acts of horrible violence.
But federal prosecutors today push the RICO Act's reach well beyond traditional crime syndicates.
Types of Federal Crimes Covered Under the RICO Act
Federal prosecutors now charge banks and other businesses, and their CEOs, CFOs, and other controlling employees and agents, with RICO charges.
Federal racketeering charges can be pursued by a prosecutor for a wide range of crimes if they can be associated with an ongoing criminal enterprise.
These types of offenses are commonly known as “predicate crimes” because before changes can be filed under the RICO ACT, at least two predicate crimes must have been committed within 10 years. Common crimes under RICO include:
- drug crimes,
- healthcare fraud,
- wire fraud,
- mail fraud,
- securities fraud,
- bank fraud,
- money laundering,
- obstruction of justice,
- human trafficking,
- sexual exploitation of children,
The predicate racketeering wrongs may not always be murder or kidnapping, those violent crimes associated with the Mafia and other crime syndicates, but fraud crimes that reputable individuals and businesses might appear in the eyes of overzealous prosecutors to be committing.
Challenging Each Element of the RICO Crime
The key to a successful RICO defense is to cast reasonable doubt on one or more of the RICO crime's elements. Federal prosecutors must prove each element of a RICO charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
Our federal criminal defense lawyers are well-equipped to acquire and present the evidence, and to challenge the prosecution's evidence, to cast reasonable doubt on each of the RICO charge's crucial elements as follows:
(1) No enterprise existed. A RICO charge stands only when the individual defendant conducted or participated in an enterprise, a legal term having its own technical definition. Prosecutors may be unable to show the existence of a distinct enterprise as the RICO Act requires;
(2) The alleged enterprise did not affect interstate commerce. Congress enacted the RICO Act under its commerce powers, meaning that a RICO charge stands only when the alleged enterprise, if prosecutors can prove one, affects interstate commerce. Not every enterprise does so, giving our lawyers another issue ripe for a challenge;
(3) The defendant did not associate with the alleged enterprise. Prosecutors must prove that the defendant associated with the alleged enterprise, such as the enterprise employing the defendant. If the alleged enterprise existed, prosecutors may fail to prove the defendant's involvement in it. Just because others, even family members close to the defendant, participate in an enterprise does not mean that the defendant also does so;
(4) The defendant did not engage in a pattern of racketeering activity. This element can be especially difficult for the prosecution to establish in that the prosecution must show not just separate wrongs but a pattern of connected wrongs constituting racketeering; and
(5) The defendant did not conduct or participate in the enterprise through that pattern of racketeering activity, committing at least two of the racketeering acts in the indictment. This last element can be the hardest for the prosecution to establish in that the prosecution must show that the defendant committed at least two instances of conduct out of the statutory list–those things like crimes of fraud or violence–while also proving the connection of those wrongs to one another and to the enterprise. In effect, the prosecution must prove two criminal cases (the minimum two predicate acts) within the RICO case.
Best Defense Lawyers for Federal RICO Charges
You can see from the above that RICO law is incredibly complex. Don't let the federal government use that complexity against you.
A RICO prosecution nearly always initially seems incredibly challenging, as if you cannot defeat the federal government when it makes a RICO charge.
Don't let the federal government cause you to relinquish your right to an aggressive defense that would properly force the government to prove every element of its RICO charge beyond a reasonable doubt, as the Constitution requires.
Our federal criminal defense lawyers can make all the difference in a RICO prosecution. We have the skill and experience to handle and defeat these federal charges.
Given the federal government's resources and the complexity and challenge of a federal criminal charge, you will need a defense team familiar with RICO charges.
Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally recognized criminal defense law firm serving clients in California and throughout the United States.
Our office is located at 1999 Avenue of the Stars, 11th Fl., Los Angeles, CA 90067. Our main office is in the San Fernando Valley area of LA County at 14401 Sylvan St #112 Van Nuys, CA 91401. Contact our firm to review the details of your case at (877) 781-1570.
Categorised in: Federal Crimes
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