What is a RICO violation?

Should you find yourself facing federal charges in Pennsylvania for having committed a RICO violation, you may well wonder just exactly what illegal acts the government alleges you committed. The U.S. Department of Justice states that Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act in 1970 to provide federal investigators and prosecutors with the tools they required to go after Mafia racketeering.

Over the years, however, the feds have used the RICO statutes to bring down alleged criminals engaged in various non-Mafia schemes including the following:

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

RICO proof

Regardless of which RICO violation(s) the feds accuse you of committing, the prosecutor faces the burden of proving all five of the following before (s)he can convict you:

  1. The involvement of an enterprise
  2. Your participation in the enterprise
  3. The occurrence of illegal acts called predicates affecting interstate commerce
  4. The occurrence of two predicates during a period of 10 years
  5. The existence of a racketeering pattern

The enterprise

For purposes of the RICO statutes, an “enterprise” can be any organization, whether a traditional business such as a partnership, corporation, LLC, etc. or a very informal “association” of people who, with you, band together for an illegal purpose.

The racketeering pattern

The RICO statutes set forth two types of racketeering patterns: closed end and open ended. Should the prosecutor prove that the enterprise and you committed two or more predicates within 10 years of each other, this amounts to a closed-end racketeering pattern. On the other hand, should (s)he prove that the enterprise and you committed only a single predicate but intended to commit others in the future, this amounts to an open-ended racketeering pattern.

Usually when you get charged with a RICO violation, the feds actually charge you with several of them so they have more likelihood of convicting you of at least one of them. For each violation for which the jury convicts you, you could spend 20 years in federal prison plus pay a $250,000 or higher fine.

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

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