Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations

What is RICO?

Enacted in 1970 to combat organized crime, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) was part of the Organized Crime Control Act. RICO expressly prohibits four activities: (1) Investing income from a pattern of racketeering in an enterprise; (2) Acquiring or maintaining an interest in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering; (3) Conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity; (4) Conspiring to violate any of the previously listed activities. “Racketeering activity” is defined as any chargeable or indictable act under an extensive list of state and federal proscriptions. “Pattern of racketeering activity” is defined as two or more acts of racketeering activity within a ten-year span.

What type of penalties does a RICO violation carry?

Persons convicted of violating RICO can get up to twenty years in prison, and receive an individual fine of not more than $250,000 or an organizational fine not exceeding $500,000. The fines may be greater if a substantial amount of income is generated by the violating activity, in which case the maximum is twice the gross profits of the operation.

Does RICO apply to white collar crime?

While RICO was enacted as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, the statute reaches beyond organized crime. As an offense that is built upon other offenses, a RICO violation is often predicated on such common white collar offenses as mail fraud and wire fraud. In 1996, Congress amended RICO to include intellectual property offenses in the list of charges that may result in a RICO charge.

What are the elements of the RICO offense?

There are five elements the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to establish a violation: (1) An enterprise exists; (2) The enterprise affects commerce; (3) The defendant committed two or more predicate acts; (4) The acts constituted a “pattern of racketeering activity; and (5) The defendant invested, maintained an interest or participated in the enterprise.

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