Racketeering, broadly defined, is the operation of an illegal business (racket). This usually involves organized crime.

Criminal rackets may include the importation and sale of illegal drugs, prostitution rings, gambling, and other activities associated with money laundering or bribery. “Protection rackets” involve some criminal organization extorting money from businesses for “protection” against crimes, which would be committed by the criminal organization itself.

How Does RICO Apply to Racketeering?

Under federal law, racketeering is covered by the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This law is so broad in scope that almost any criminal who commits multiple crimes can be charged under it. The law lists 35 crimes (murder, illegal gambling, drug dealing, kidnapping, etc.). Any person or group who commits 2 of those crimes in a 10 year period with the same purpose or effect, in a way that affects interstate commerce, can be charged with racketeering.

Punishments under RICO

Criminal: Under RICO, any person who is found guilty of racketeering can get up to 20 years in prison and/or up to $25,000 in fines. Furthermore, any money or property used to commit the crimes, or gained from them, is forfeited to the government.

Civil: RICO also allows for individuals or businesses harmed by racketeering to sue for compensation. In this case, a plaintiff must prove the existence of a criminal enterprise, and some relationship between the enterprise and the defendant. The law allows anyone injured to recover 3 times the amount of actual damages suffered. So, if a criminal enterprise causes $1,000 in harm, the person harmed can recover $3,000 against them.

Do I Need an Attorney?

Involvment in any sort of organized crime can lead to serious criminal charges. By consulting an experienced criminal defense attorney, you can understand your rights and develop defenses for your case.