Understanding the RICO Act
Since 1970 the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act has been working to combat organized crime in the United States. Even though the threat of Mafia families or other major crime organizations is sparse in the 2020s, especially in Georgia, this law has come under fire more recently for its negative effect on individuals who may be perceived as committing crimes on behalf of a group.
While initially created to prosecute the prominent Mafia families, several civil and criminal crimes can fall underneath its stipulations.
The 35 Crimes Associated with the RICO Act
It's important to note that the RICO Act typically only applies to crimes that are somehow tied to, related to, or performed on behalf of an enterprise. This means that any kind of organization, union, or corporation such as churches, politicians, and nonprofits, to name a few, can be subject to a conviction for the offenses included in this law.
This is perhaps one of the main points of contention that people have with RICO - that it does not explicitly outline which groups are under strict scrutiny. Instead, it holds any kind of enterprise accountable for unlawful actions that may be committed in relation to or on its behalf.
Over the years, RICO has grown to cover 35 distinct crimes, which include:
Larceny Crimes: robbery or theft
Crimes Involving People: murder, kidnapping, slavery, human smuggling, tampering with a witness.
Money-Related Crimes: multiple kinds of fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, bribery, paying for murder for hire, gambling, counterfeiting, extortion, collection of unlawful debt
Other: criminal copyright infringement, arson, acts of terrorism, obstruction of justice, trafficking controlled substances, false use of a passport
Under this act, it is also illegal to engage in activities that directly or indirectly disrupt foreign or interstate commerce.
To convict one of a crime under RICO, proving a pattern of behavior is required. Usually, this means that two or more instances of racketeering need to occur within a ten-year time span for it to be viable.
Penalties for These Crimes
Since this act has been expanded over the years to include any kind of enterprise-related pattern of crime, the penalties that one could face if charged are severe.
As a maximum penalty, those convicted of a RICO-related crime can face up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. However, one may be sentenced to life in prison if the charge is directly related to a racketeering activity with a penalty of life imprisonment, such as drug trafficking or homicide. As an additional penalty, the defendant may also face the consequences associated with the crime itself. This means that if convicted of committing mail fraud under the RICO Act, both mail fraud and RICO penalties are considered.
As part of these penalties, the forfeit or seizure of these items are included:
any interest acquired through this activity
any interest, security, claim, or property/contractual right in the enterprise associated with the activity
any property including unlawful debt collected or proceeds obtained through racketeering
The law also defines in which manner this property may be forfeited and defines property as such:
physical property like homes or businesses
intangible property like privileges, securities, or claims
Violators of this law will also forfeit the titles and rights to any physical property.
Charged with Violating the RICO Act? Call (404) 471-3177.
If charged with a crime under RICO, it's essential to work with a team of attorneys who have a history as prosecutors and experience dealing with these charges. The duo of Nick Lotito & Seth Kirschenbaum are skilled RICO and racketeering defense lawyers who will work tirelessly to protect your rights against unlawful convictions.