In 2020, the United States marked the 50th anniversary of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law. Though the law was originally intended to fight organized crime, it has led to criminal and civil proceedings against a wide range of organizations that have been labeled as criminal enterprises, even when they have nothing to do with the Mafia.
Under the federal statute, RICO can only be charged when the alleged criminal activity bears some relation to interstate commerce. Florida also has a RICO statute for matters that only encompass criminal activity within the state. However, the definition of interstate commerce is expansive, so a defendant could find themselves in federal court even if they believe they were only engaged in local activity. If you have been named in a RICO indictment or believe that you might be the subject of an investigation, a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can explain key elements of the relevant law, including:
Predicate crimes — There are 35 different crimes that can be used as a predicate for a RICO prosecution. These range from violent offenses such as murder to white-collar offenses including mail fraud and embezzlement. Despite its origins, you don’t have to be a gangster to face severe penalties under the statute. Executives, nonprofit officials and financial professionals have also been targeted in RICO investigations.
Patterns of alleged illegal activity — No matter how harmful a particular crime might be, RICO cannot be invoked unless a pattern of alleged illegal activity exists. It can be complicated to distinguish between a pattern sufficient enough to justify a RICO action and a series of similar but unrelated incidents. Likewise, it is inappropriate to bring a RICO case when numerous meetings or other acts taking place over a period of time are devoted to planning one crime.
Independent organization — Two or more people who get together purely to engage in criminal activity can be charged with conspiracy and other crimes, but RICO is not intended to address these cases. Rather, the law focuses on organizations that have some purpose beyond the commission of unlawful conduct. Many RICO matters involve groups that use proceeds of sustained illegal activity for business purposes or to fund other schemes.
The Law Office of Roma W. Theus, II, P.A. advocates on behalf of clients facing RICO charges and other types of complex criminal allegations in federal and state court. To schedule a consultation at my office in Wellington, please call 954.281.4851 or contact me online. My firm assists individuals in South Florida and across the United States.
The Law Office of Roma W. Theus, II, P.A. is located in Wellington, FL and serves clients in and around Loxahatchee and Pahokee.
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