What is RICO Criminal Law?

February 1, 2023

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law that was passed in 1970 to combat organized crimes in the US. The law serves as the ultimate hitman allowing for mob prosecutions. Before the law was passed, prosecutors used to ty mob-related crimes individually. Different mobsters were considered to perpetrate each crime and the government only prosecuted individual criminals rather than shutting down an entire criminal organization.

Introduction of RICO Law

The RICO law allows prosecution for crimes and civil penalties for any racketeering activities performed in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Racketeering activities may include illegal gambling, kidnapping, bribery, money laundering, murder, embezzlement, counterfeiting, slavery, drug trafficking, and a host of other unsavory business practices. With RICO in place, it meant that the government can now go after top leadership, hitmen, and capos as well.

Justice under RICO Criminal Law

Under RICO criminal law, the government attorney must prove that the accused person engaged in at least two instances of racketeering activity. The government must further prove that the defendant directly invested in, participated in, or maintained an interest in a criminal enterprise. The RICO criminal law has been used to prosecute members of the mafia, Operation Rescue, the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, an anti-abortion group, and many others.

In this law, an individual who committed at least two racketeering acts drawn from a list of eight state crimes and 27 federal crimes (35 crimes) within 10 years is charged if such acts were related to one of the specified ways to an enterprise. Once found guilty for racketeering, the period is sentenced up to 20 years and fined up to $25,000 per racketeering count. If the charge is directly related to a racketeering activity, such as homicide and drug trafficking, the individual may be sentenced to life in prison. The law further states that the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gained interest and gains in a business that was formed through a pattern of racketeering.

Attorney’s Options Under RICO Law

When the US Attorney indicts an individual under RICO criminal law, they have the option of seeking an injunction or pre-trial restraining order to temporarily seize the properties of the defendant and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property. They may also require the defendant to put up a performance bond because owners of Mafia-related corporations tend to abscond with the assets. By requiring a performance bond or injunction, the attorneys ensure that there will be something to seize if the verdict is guilty.