RICO Laws & Types of Crimes
The US Department of Justice states that it is against the law for anyone to be associated with or employed by an enterprise that engages in activities or conduct through racketeering or collecting unlawful debts. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act covers a variety of activities that have an impact on or interfere with foreign or interstate commerce.
For RICO charges to apply, a pattern of illegal activity must occur at an organizational level that affects commerce. RICO charges are designed to cover physical acts of violence and other related crimes, including extortion, coercion, wire fraud, or blackmail.
These are commonly referred to as predicate acts or activities used to carry out more serious criminal offenses.
Charges under RICO involved the use or operation of business entities. These business entities are often legitimate but are used to hide unlawful, criminal activity such as money laundering or human trafficking.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was passed in 1970. Under 18 USC Section 1961, prosecutors were no longer required to prove that the leader of an organized criminal enterprise was personally responsible for committing specific crimes for them to be charged accordingly.
Approximately 35 different criminal offenses are included under the RICO Act. Some of the more common crimes include:
These are only a few examples of charges that could follow under the RICO Act. Most recently, government officials use the RICO Act to hold college test administrators accountable who were involved in the infamous admissions scandal and have even considered charging defendants involved in the attempted coup on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, under RICO.
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RICO: Elements, Penalties, & Defenses
RICO laws can be violated in many ways. For the prosecutor to obtain a guilty verdict, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the elements of the offense have been met:
The prosecutor will be tasked with proving not only that an organized criminal enterprise exists but that this enterprise affected interstate or foreign commerce, that the defendant was associated with or employed by the enterprise, and that the defendant participated in racketeering or other illegal activities as defined by RICO across a span of a minimum of 10 years.
The specific penalties you can face for a RICO crime vary widely depending on the type of offense in question. However, if you face racketeering charges, you could spend as much as 20 years in federal prison and pay fines as high as $250,000.
If your racketeering charges are combined with another offense under RICO, such as drug trafficking, murder for hire, or money laundering, the penalties could be far worse.
Often, individuals facing RICO charges will not be eligible for concurrent sentences, meaning the amount of time you spend in prison could be substantially longer if convicted.
If you are hoping to beat a RICO charge, consider all of your defense options. In some instances, you may be eligible for a plea agreement. However, these are often only available in non-violent offenses involving first-time offenders.
The state may be more willing to work with you if you can provide them with the information they need to pursue charges against the leader of the organized criminal enterprise in your case.
However, if you must defend yourself at trial, there are several potential defenses available, including:
It should be noted that even if your attorney can get the RICO charges against you dismissed or dropped, you could still be charged for other criminal offenses in your case. Your attorney will closely evaluate the circumstances of the charges against you to determine how to best approach your defense strategy.
A conviction for a RICO offense is life-changing. If you hope to get the RICO charges against you dismissed or dropped, make sure you have an aggressive legal defender fighting for your future.
Reach out to an experienced Albuquerque RICO attorney at Harrison & Hart, LLC for a confidential defense strategy session. Start working on your case as soon as today when you fill out our secured contact form or call our office at (505) 295-3261.
From our office in Albuquerque, Harrison & Hart, LLC serves clients throughout New Mexico. We are focused on getting you the best outcome possible in the harshest of situations.