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RICO Cases Defense Lawyers

November 2, 2021 Federal Criminal Attorneys
RICO Cases
Places such as New York City, Boston, and Chicago look a lot different than they did 50 years ago. Back then, these cities served as headquarters for some of the most ruthless mafia families that America has ever seen. They ruled the streets from the mid-1930s until the early 1980s. Their activities had gotten so bad that the federal government drafted legislation specifically to end the racketeering crimes for which the mob was famous. In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act which made organized crimes such as money laundering, kidnapping, extortion, and bribery easier to prosecute.

Fast forward to today. You’ll see that America hasn’t completely eradicated organized crime within its borders. While the faces of the mob have changed, the same crimes are still being committed, and they’ve become even more sophisticated thanks to advancements in technology.

The RICO Act is still relevant, and here are some cases that show why.

United States Versus Hell’s Angels 1979

While mafia crime families were the main inspiration for the RICO Act, the first group of criminals to be impacted by the legislation were the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. The biker thugs are known for trafficking in drugs and guns. In 1979, U.S. prosecutors targeted Ralph Hubert “Sonny” Barger, who is the founding member of the Hell’s Angels Oakland chapter. He and some of his associates were charged with drug trafficking and conspiracy to transport explosives with the intent to harm people and structures.

How Did This Case Violate the RICO Act?

According to the jury, there was no evidence that proved that Sonny Barger committed those crimes as part of his membership in the Hell’s Angels organization. Federal investigators combed through years of minutes from the Hell’s Angels’ meetings and found no evidence that drug trafficking, gunrunning, terrorism, or arson was part of the gang’s policy. However, several members of the Hell’s Angels gang were indicted on drug trafficking charges as individuals.

Penalties

If federal prosecutors had proven that Sonny Barger and company had committed criminal acts on behalf of the Hell’s Angels organization, he and his associates would have faced maximum 20-year prison penalties for each count.

Montreal Expos Versus Major League Baseball 2001

Major League Baseball (MLB) was involved in a civil RICO case with the Montreal Expos back in 2001. The owner of the Montreal Expos accused the MLB commissioner and the previous Montreal Expos owner of devaluing the team for personal profit before moving the team to Washington. The owner of the Montreal Expos sought monetary compensation for damages to the tune of $300 million dollars. Instead of going to trial, the two parties turned to arbitration for a remedy.

How Did This Case Violate the RICO Act?

According to the arbitration findings, the MLB didn’t violate the RICO Act. In order for a plaintiff to win a civil RICO case, he or she has to prove that the defendant committed a RICO crime such as fraud, bribery, or money laundering. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant has a pattern of committing these types of crimes. There’s also a four-year statute of limitations on civil RICO cases. If a civil RICO case isn’t filed within 4 years of the discovered damage, the plaintiff can’t claim monetary damages.

The owner of the Montreal Expos didn’t bring a strong enough case against the MLB and the team’s former owner.

Penalties

If a plaintiff wins a civil RICO case, he or she is eligible for three times the amount of the initially quoted damages. Unfortunately, for the Montreal Expos the arbitration ruling was in favor of the MLB.

United States Versus Genovese Crime Family 2018

The RICO case involving the Genovese crime family of New York dates back to 2018. Law enforcement had been watching members of the Genovese crime family for over a decade to gather enough evidence to prosecute the family crime bosses and minions according to the terms of the RICO Act. Members of the family committed multiple financial crimes from 2001 to 2017.

Vincent Esposito, Steven Arena, and Vincent D’Acunto extorted cash payments from a labor union official for several years after threatening the union officer with job loss and bodily harm. Frank Cognetta, who is another Genovese family member, used his position as a union officer to solicit and accept bribes. He also directed union benefits plans into investments that provided him with financial rewards or kickbacks.

How Did This Case Violate the RICO Act?

According to case law, RICO violations happen when people commit racketeering activities in relation to a business. To charge an individual with a RICO violation, prosecutors must show that the person demonstrates a pattern of committing racketeering crimes. By law, the pattern is established after two instances of racketeering crimes. In the Genovese crime family case, the members committed numerous racketeering activities between 2001 and 2017.

Penalties

Five members of the Genovese crime family were charged with RICO conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Three of the five members were also charged with extortion conspiracy, which added another maximum 20-year prison penalty. One of the five indicted family members racked up a maximum penalty of 126 years in prison for multiple counts of honest services fraud, conspiracy, and bribery.

Conclusion

You only need to be an ardent student of history and an observant person to notice that organized crime did not die with the likes of John Gotti, Lucky Luciano, and Whitey Bulger. While today’s organized crime participants don’t have the name recognition of the crime bosses of the past, they are just as troublesome and seemingly more abundant. It makes one wonder if the old mafia families of yesteryear simply took their operations behind closed doors instead of being driven out of business as most people assume happened.

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