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What is a RICO violation?

If the federal government charges you with having committed a RICO violation in New York, you may wonder exactly what these charges entail. Per the U.S. Department of Justice, RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act that Congress passed back in 1970.

RICO’s initial purpose was to give the feds the power and authority they needed to prosecute Mafia racketeering. During the subsequent decades, however, RICO has been used to prosecute a variety of other alleged crimes, including the following:

  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Bribery
  • Mail fraud
  • Money laundering

RICO elements of proof

Whatever precise RICO charges you face, in order to convict you, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • An enterprise was involved.
  • You were somehow part of that enterprise.
  • The enterprise and you engaged in acts, a/k/a predicates, that affected interstate commerce.
  • The enterprise and you committed two predicates during the same decade.
  • These predicates amounted to a pattern of racketeering.

Enterprise definition

The RICO statutes define “enterprise” as virtually any kind of an organization, however formal or informal. It need not be a formal business entity such as a partnership or corporation. It can be no more than a very loose association of which you were or are a part, as an employee or merely as some sort of “associate.”

Racketeering pattern definition

The RICO statutes define “racketeering pattern” in two ways. A closed-end pattern consists of two predicates committed by the enterprise and you during a 10-year period. An open-ended pattern consists of only one predicate, but the strong implication that you and the enterprise intended to commit further predicates at some point in the future.

RICO penalties

Bear in mind that in most RICO prosecutions, the feds charge you with having allegedly committed several RICO violations. In this way they have a better chance of convicting you of at least one of them. You face serious penalties for each conviction you receive, including a 20-year minimum prison sentence and a $250,000 minimum fine.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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