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What is a civil RICO case?

If you face federal RICO charges in New York, this is a serious situation indeed. As the Justice Department explains, RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act passed by Congress in 1970. Its original purpose was to attack the problem of Mafia racketeering, but the Federal Government also uses it to pursue alleged serious white collar criminals including the following:

  • Money launderers
  • Embezzlers
  • Counterfeiters
  • Criminals engaged in mail fraud
  • Criminals engaged in bribery

Proving a RICO case

If the Feds charge you with a RICO crime, the prosecutor will have to prove all five of the following in order to convict you:

  1. The fact that an enterprise existed
  2. The fact that this enterprise employed you or associated with you in some manner
  3. The fact that you and the enterprise committed illegal acts, a/k/a predicates, that affected interstate commerce
  4. Thae fact that you and the enterprize committed at least two predicates during a 10-year period
  5. The fact that these predicates constituted a racketeering pattern

Defining enterprise

Surprisingly enough, the enterprise that the prosecutor must prove does not have to be a corporation, partnership or any other type of formal business. It can be any type of informal “association” of people with whom you shared a common illegal purpose.

Defining racketeering pattern

The prosecutor can prove a racketeering pattern in one of two ways: closed-end or open-end. To prove a closed-end pattern, (s)he must prove you and the enterprise engaged in two predicates within a decade. To prove an open-ended pattern, (s)he must prove that you and the enterprise engaged in at least one predicate and intended to commit at least one additional predicate in the future. In either case, (s)he must prove that the predicate affected interstate commerce.

RICO penalties

Should the jury convict you of a RICO crime, you face very stiff penalties. You could be sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for each count on which the jury convicts you. You could also face a fine of up to $250,000 for each count on which the jury convicts you. Alternatively, your fine could be equal to twice the amount of money that you and the enterprise made while conducting your racketeering pattern.

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

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