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Understanding RICO Conspiracy Laws + Charges

June 25, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

RICO – the Federal Racketeer and Corrupt Organizations Act is believed to be a law meant to deal with the mafia.

Although that was the initial intention, today the law is being applied in cases that involve organizations that few people would think to be the mafia.

Why does RICO exist?

The original purpose of RICO was to ensure that high-ranking members of Mafia groups are prosecuted. In the past, prosecutors used to get convictions for members of lower ranks who were involved in criminal activities.

However, they found it hard to prosecute senior members who were responsible for the actual crimes.

RICO was an opportunity for the office of the U.S. Attorney to easily prosecute members of the mafia for the criminal activities of their associates.

How RICO works

To succeed in prosecuting individuals using RICO, it must be proved that members of a particular criminal enterprise involved in a pattern of racketeering that affected interstate commerce.

What is a criminal enterprise?

A criminal enterprise is any organization or group of people that work together for a long time with a structure where one or several people are responsible for making the decisions affecting the organization. The enterprise can either be a legal or illegal entity.

Pattern of racketeering

This implies that members of the group must have involved in continuous illegal activities. They also must have committed at least two crimes in two separate and unrelated incidences. In other words, there must be some of a scheme of criminal activities.

Effect of Interstate commerce

This refers to anything that affects commerce – when the effect of the activity is not limited to a single state.

Predicate crimes

Not everyone found engaged in criminal activities can be charged using RICO laws. The law stipulates certain criminal activities. Predicate crimes are criminal activities that can prompt RICO charges.

Below are examples of some of the charges:

• Extortion
Money laundering
• Gambling
Drug trafficking
• Murder
Buying and selling of obscene material
• Briary
• Embezzlement

This list is however not conclusive. As seen from the list, RICO charges can cut across a wide range of criminal activities including white-collar crimes.

RICO and the U.S. Attorney’s Office

RICO charges attract stiff penalties and sometimes appear to go against certain rights embedded in the constitution.

As a result, the U.S. Attorney only uses RICO in special circumstances. Charges can only be instituted if the following conditions are met:

• If a person is convicted, RICO laws would permit sentencing that normal crimes would not
• If without the use of RICO, prosecution of a convicted individual will be impossible
• If similar criminal activities would need prosecution in different jurisdictions
• If the crime committed is a state crime and the local prosecutors feel that they are unable to successfully prosecute the convicted person or persons.
• If only convicting the underlying criminal acts would not be enough to prove the nature and scope of the criminal act
• If penalization of RICO is the most appropriate for the criminal act

What should a person do when charged with RICO?

If you receive a call or notification you are being suspected or charged for RICO crimes, then the first thing you need to do is to contact your lawyer.

RICO offenses are serious in nature and you cannot try to defend yourself without the help of an experienced lawyer.

This is because RICO charges can attract many years in prison as well as large amounts of fines.

Besides, RICO can also be used as a basis to launch civil lawsuits. If you lose a civil RICO lawsuit, you will definitely end up paying three times the normal charges.

For example, if a jury comes to the conclusion that you embezzled $3,000, you will have to pay $6,000. In most cases, you will not have a choice but to pay since you won’t be given a chance to contest the decision.

In a nutshell, RICO offenses are serious crimes that no one should play around with. The charges can attract several years in prison and hefty fines.

In case you find yourself in such a situation, the best thing to do is to find a good and experienced attorney to take you through each step.

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