Crimes committed for financial gain are considered white-collar crimes. Generally, these crimes are motivated by either gaining money or avoiding losing money, property, or services.

According to the FBI, these crimes are characterized by deceit, concealment, or trust violations. A personal or business advantage may also motivate them.

White-collar workers have historically been defined by office jobs, while blue-collar workers traditionally wear blue shirts while working physically demanding jobs.

With the advent of new technology and financial products, white-collar crimes have grown exponentially. A number of new white-collar crimes are also facilitated by the internet, such as phishing emails requesting money in exchange for help.

Some definitions of white-collar crime only include offenses committed by individuals for their own benefit. The FBI defines corporate crime as “large-scale fraud perpetrated by many throughout a corporate or government institution.”

The agency names corporate crime as one of its top enforcement priorities since it causes substantial financial losses to investors. The FBI further states that these crimes could negatively impact investor confidence as well as the U.S. economy.

Government prosecutors prosecute the majority of white-collar crimes. It is up to prosecutors to determine if and what charges to file based on the nature of the crime, as well as information obtained from the arresting officers’ police reports.

Prosecutors sometimes use grand juries to make charging decisions for white-collar crimes. A committee of 15-23 people is chosen at random to consider the evidence and decide whether or not to file charges. During this time, both the prosecution and defense gather evidence and prepare for hearings and trials.

Different punishments may be imposed for white-collar crimes, including:

  • Compensation payment to victim;
  • Community service;
  • Criminal fines;
  • Incarceration in either jail or prison, depending on whether the crime is a misdemeanor or a felony; or
  • Probation

What Is a RICO Violation?

RICO (Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act) makes it unlawful for a person to use an enterprise to launder money generated by a pattern of racketeering activity. The act of racketeering occurs when an organization engages in illegal activity or embezzles funds from a lawful organization.

Racketeering practices can severely damage institutions and businesses. State and federal governments have created laws to combat criminal racketeering organizations.

What Is Racketeering?

The term racketeering generally refers to a criminal who uses extortion, loan sharking, bribery, or obstruction of justice to further their illegal activities. Normally, a person that is guilty of racketeering uses some sort of authority or power to persuade others to further their interests illegally.

Who Can Be Charged with a RICO Violation?

For a defendant to be charged with violating RICO, several requirements must be met, including:

  • The person must be employed or associated with a criminal enterprise
  • The person’s activities must affect interstate commerce
    • Just about anything affects interstate commerce: if you use the telephone, internet, railroad, highways, waterways, or mail you are using some kind of interstate commerce
  • The person charged must have participated with the organization through a pattern of racketeering activity
    • They look at whether this person’s actions have the same or similar purpose, results, participants, victims, and methods
  • The statute of limitations (when you can bring a lawsuit) for prosecuting a RICO violation is five years for criminal prosecution and four years for civil prosecution

How Can a RICO Violation Claim Be Proved?

Is it possible to prove that someone acquired or maintained an interest in an enterprise through racketeering activity?

RICO criminalizes the following activities:

  • Using money that is gained through unlawful racketeering
  • The collection of an unlawful debt to acquire, establish, or operate any enterprise that has an effect on interstate commerce
  • Acquiring or maintaining an interest in any organization through racketeering activity

In addition, the prosecution must prove that the defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering. There must be a relationship between the acts in order for a pattern to exist, as well as a demonstration that the defendants did not just commit one crime but participated in an ongoing criminal scheme or activity over time.

What Damages Can a Civil RICO Plaintiff Gain?

An injured party may bring a civil action to recover damages from a RICO violation. Plaintiffs must prove financial loss in order to recover from defendants. Civil damages can be recovered without waiting for the defendant to be criminally convicted.

When a plaintiff proves that they suffered financial damages as a result of a violation of the RICO in civil court, the federal court may order the defendant to:

  • Pay triple the amount of damages to the plaintiff
  • Pay the plaintiff’s cost and attorney fees
  • Order the defendant to stop engaging in certain business activities
  • Dissolve the defendant’s organization

How Can You Prove a Civil RICO Claim?

In order to win a civil RICO claim, several elements must be proven. In order to prove racketeering activity, you must demonstrate that the defendant was employed by a business or enterprise engaged in or affecting interstate commerce, which the defendant operated or managed through a pattern of racketeering activity.

To convict someone under RICO or similar state law, the prosecutor does not have to prove that the individual personally committed an illegal act.

Prosecutors need only prove:

  • The defendant owns and manages an organization
  • The organization regularly performs one or more illegal activities
  • Plaintiff’s business or property was injured as a direct or proximate result of the defendant’s RICO violation

Who Qualifies as a Defendant in a RICO Claim?

Defendants can be either individuals or corporations as long as they engaged in criminal activities prohibited by RICO. The mere designation of an entity as a RICO enterprise does not entail any responsibility for it. It is necessary to identify a person.

What Qualifies as a Criminal Enterprise in a RICO Claim?

In addition to legal entities such as partnerships, corporations, or other similar types of associations, enterprises can also be illegal entities, such as Mafia families.

A criminal enterprise must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an ongoing organization that functions as a unit
  • Have a common purpose
  • Exists separate and apart from the members that engage in the criminal activity

An enterprise does not have to have an illegal purpose. It is possible for a business purpose to be valid and legal, but it may serve only an illegal purpose. An entity or business can be legal and valid but make bribes for a number of years, for example.

What Can You Do If You Are Accused of a RICO Violation?

A racketeering conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. A court can also impose heavy fines twice as much as the defendant’s profits and gains. Federal RICO prosecutions and civil suits have very serious consequences and can be very expensive. If you are being investigated or have already been charged with a RICO violation, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in defendant RICO cases.

Call the police if you are the victim of a RICO violation. In the event that there is sufficient evidence, the police will forward your case to the Attorney General’s office so that the person or organization that committed the RICO violation can be prosecuted.