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Tampa Criminal Defense Law Firms Explain How to Beat RICO Charges

Tampa Criminal Defense Law Firms Explain How to Beat RICO Charges

Being charged with a RICO violation can be an intimidating and confusing experience. RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – a federal law designed to combat organized crime activities. While RICO charges were originally intended for mobsters and gangs, prosecutors have become increasingly aggressive in applying RICO to legitimate businesses and individuals.

If you’ve been accused of a RICO violation in Tampa, don’t go it alone. An experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney can help you understand the charges and build an effective defense. Keep reading as local defense lawyers explain RICO charges and how to beat them.

What is RICO?

Congress passed RICO in 1970 to give law enforcement more tools for dismantling organized crime empires. RICO makes it a crime to engage in a “pattern of racketeering activity” connected to an “enterprise.” An enterprise can be any business, organization, or group of individuals associated in fact, even if not a legal entity.

Racketeering activities are specifically listed in the RICO statute and include extortion, bribery, money laundering, embezzlement, drug trafficking, kidnapping, murder, and more. A pattern requires at least two criminal acts within 10 years of each other.

RICO also allows for criminal forfeiture of assets linked to racketeering and civil lawsuits by victims against RICO enterprises. Both criminal and civil RICO claims require proving a pattern of racketeering tied to an enterprise.

Why are RICO Charges Used in Tampa?

Federal prosecutors are typically the ones who bring RICO charges. Tampa has seen its share of RICO indictments aimed at dismantling drug rings, fraud schemes, violent gangs, and other criminal organizations.

However, over the years, federal prosecutors have taken an expansive view of RICO – using it against defendants with little or no ties to organized crime. Legitimate businesses and business people have faced RICO charges for alleged commercial disputes, contract violations, and even minor regulatory infractions.

Civil RICO lawsuits have also increased, with plaintiffs arguing that ordinary business activities constitute racketeering. The broad application of RICO raises serious due process concerns. Reputable Tampa criminal defense lawyers have succeeded in getting dubious RICO charges dismissed.

RICO Elements: What Prosecutors Must Prove

To convict on a RICO charge, prosecutors must prove these key elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Enterprise – There was an enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce. This can be a formal business or an informal association.
  • Pattern – The defendant engaged in at least two racketeering acts within 10 years of each other. The crimes can be in any combination.
  • Racketeering Activity – The acts qualify as racketeering activity per RICO’s list of offenses. Common predicates include fraud, extortion, and drug trafficking.
  • Relationship to Enterprise – The pattern of racketeering was related to or furthered the enterprise’s activities.

This last element is where prosecutors often overreach. They try to connect sporadic criminal conduct to an otherwise lawful business. Skilled Tampa criminal defense lawyers know how to defeat these allegations.

Common RICO Defenses Tampa Lawyers Use

Former federal prosecutors who now work as Tampa RICO defense attorneys have seen RICO cases from both sides. This experience equips them with insider knowledge on how to beat these complex charges. Typical RICO defenses include:

  • No enterprise – Questioning prosecutors’ evidence that an enterprise existed.
  • No pattern – Disputing the relatedness or continuity of the alleged criminal acts.
  • No racketeering activity – Challenging whether the predicate acts qualify under RICO.
  • No relationship to enterprise – Denying any nexus between the enterprise and racketeering.
  • Lack of knowledge – Establishing the defendant didn’t know about the criminal activity.
  • Statute of limitations – Proving the alleged acts fall outside RICO’s five-year limitation.
  • Void for vagueness – Attacking RICO as unconstitutionally vague.
  • Outrageous government conduct – Seeking dismissal based on entrapment or other government misconduct.

An experienced Tampa criminal lawyer can assess which defenses to pursue based on the facts of your case.

Seek an Experienced Tampa RICO Defense Attorney

Facing RICO charges puts your freedom, finances, and reputation at grave risk. These complex cases require an attorney intimately familiar with RICO’s scope and defenses. Do not leave your fate in the hands of an inexperienced lawyer.

Look for a Tampa criminal defense firm with specific experience defending RICO cases in federal court. Ask about their track record getting RICO charges dismissed pre-trial or acquitted at trial. A qualified RICO lawyer will handle every aspect of the case, from reviewing evidence to negotiating with prosecutors to trying the case before a jury if necessary. With an elite legal defense, you can beat a RICO case.

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