To prove a violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (18 USC §§ 1961-1968) the prosecution must show (1) the existence of an enterprise affecting interstate commerce, (2) the accused derived income from or associated with the enterprise and participated in the conduct of the affairs of the enterprise, and (3) the accused participated through a pattern of racketeering activity. The RICO statute incorporated by reference 24 separate types of federal crimes and 8 types of state felonies. RICO prohibits “racketeering activities” which are defined by the federal and state crimes incorporated in the statute. These crimes include bribery, fraud offenses, gambling, money laundering, financial and economic crimes, obstructing justice, murder for hire, and sexual exploitation of children. The state crimes included in the RICO statute are murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, and drug crimes. In order to establish a person is involved in a RICO conspiracy, the prosecution need only prove the accused agreed to participate, directly or indirectly, in the affairs of the enterprise through a “pattern of racketeering activity,” that is the commission of at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred within 10 years after the prior act.
The RICO statute became law on October 15, 1970. At the time of its passage, RICO was the most sweeping criminal statute passed by Congress. When enacted the purpose of the RICO statute was "the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce." However, the statute is sufficiently broad to include any illegal activities relating to an enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce. Do not hesitate to contact Miami attorney Ken Swartz for an initial consultation if you have been charged with a racketeering violation.
RICO does not create a new type of substantive crime since any acts which are punishable under RICO also are punishable under existing federal and state statutes. The statute instead takes a variety of state and federal crimes and declares that if a person commits two of these offenses, the person is then guilty of “racketeering activity” and is subject to severe penalties. Often the penalties for a violation of RICO are more severe than the penalties for the crimes which constitute the definition of “racketeering activity.”
As soon as it was passed the Justice Department went to work using the RICO statute to prosecute mafia crime operations. At the time of its enactment, local and state law enforcement agencies were not powerful enough or were not willing to combat pervasive criminal activities of the mafia that extended across many jurisdictions. This was a period when organized crime wielded much influence within corrupt police departments. The RICO statute gave federal jurisdiction and legal tools to prosecute organized crime. This allowed federal law enforcement free of local influence to step in to the fight against organized crime.
Though RICO prosecutions have been most commonly associated with the mafia crime family cases, the statute has been used widely against all types of criminal operations. Prosecutions against criminal enterprises have been seen in Miami and other parts of Florida against drug cartels, criminal gang activities, and motorcycle gangs. It can be employed whenever there is a criminal “enterprise” which operates through the use of prohibited racketeering activities across state lines.
Contact attorney Ken Swartz right away for a consultation in our Miami office, or anywhere throughout Florida, about your legal matter.