Racketeering, a term stemming from the work “racket” consists of organized criminal activity conducted through some form of business designed to earn money via illegal means. The activities to accomplish this revenue may be done on a regular basis or may be done briefly but through repeated actions. Racketeering may be done at both the state and federal level. It can include obtaining a business through illegal actions, operating one with income that has been obtained illegally, or using one to conduct unlawful activity.
Racketeering falls under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), enacted in 1970 to outlaw it. It was first enacted to go after mob activity by the Mafia. Prior to RICO, government prosecutors were limited to trying mobsters individually for crimes they had personally committed while leaving those who ordered or assisted such crimes free from prosecution. Under RICO, entire corrupt organizations can be prosecuted, including top leaders as well as lowly soldiers. While the Mafia was RICO’s original target, since its enactment this broadly defined law has been used against both illegal and legal businesses involved in a wide range of activities. Those who have been prosecuted under RICO range from corrupt police departments to investment counselors employing elaborate Ponzi schemes.
RICO’s 35 Offenses
RICO identifies 35 different offenses that constitute racketeering. Under the law, racketeering consists of a pattern of activity that involves some sort of enterprise as opposed to crimes committed by single individuals. This means that the illegal activity has been committed by a group, such as crime family, a drug cartel, street gang, or a motorcycle club. The group can also be a corporation or even a political party. RICO can involve both criminal and civil penalties.
Examples of racketeering under RICO include but are not limited to:
- Drug trafficking
- Money laundering
- Obstruction of justice
- Mail and wire fraud
- Securities fraud such as insider trading and Ponzi schemes
- Financial institution fraud
- Human trafficking
- Tax evasion
- Healthcare fraud, such as Medicare and Medicaid fraud
- Trading in illegal weapons
- Predatory lending
- Protection rackets, in which victims are required to pay for protection to avoid harm to a business or property
RICO crimes may be investigated by such federal agencies as the FBI, The DEA, the IRS, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), the Secret Service, and more. Under this law, anyone convicted of racketeering may be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000 per each count of racketeering. They will also likely face forfeiture of any financial gains made and lose their interests in the enterprise they created through a pattern of committing racketeering crimes.
Why You Need Martin G. Weinberg, Attorney at Law
Being convicted of racketeering can lead to severe penalties, including decades spent in a federal prison. Federal defense lawyer Martin G. Weinberg is one of the most experienced, prominent, and successful trial lawyers in the country. He has over four decades of practice in defending individuals facing both state and federal RICO charges. The time to call is when you believe you are under investigation by a law enforcement agency for any criminal activity. This ensures that your legal rights are protected from the outset and that you have the skilled legal counsel you need throughout all phases of your case.
Being investigated or charged with racketeering? Contact our firm online or at (617) 227-3700 to schedule a consultation about your case today.