What is RICO?

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2023 | White Collar Crimes

Some criminal charges are relatively straightforward, while others are far more complicated for the layperson to understand. That’s before even getting into the differences between federal and California state laws.

One of the prime examples of a confusing criminal charge is a RICO violation. The RICO Act, or the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is a set of violations that pertain to organizations rather than individual actors, though individual people are charged with RICO violations. RICO crimes are often white collar crimes, though this isn’t always the case.

What is the RICO Act?

Prior to the RICO Act, it was difficult for law enforcement to go after higher-up members within a criminal organization. Even if authorities could demonstrate crimes, usually lower-ranking members would be directly committing them, leaving the top of the organization untouchable.

RICO changed the legal landscape, allowing law enforcement to convict people for indirect participation in an organization engaged in criminal behavior.

The fundamental pieces of a RICO charge are the existence of an organization, some form of commerce, and activity in violation of the law. This creates a fairly large space where many types of activity can be defined as racketeering.

Examples of racketeering

Racketeering crimes can span from non-violent crimes up to participation in assault or murder. Common ones include:

  • Extortion, blackmail or bribery
  • Operating a protection racket
  • Overseeing prostitution
  • Engaging in human trafficking or slavery
  • Trafficking guns or narcotics
  • Illegal gambling operations
  • Counterfeiting or fraud
  • Kidnapping and murder-for-hire

Again, it’s crucial to understand that a person can be charged with a RICO case due to indirect involvement with any of the above, as long as they’re part of an organization engaged in those practices.

The RICO Act is a tool that allows law enforcement to prosecute individuals within organizations engaged in criminal activity. With RICO charges, a person need not be the one committing the crime directly, only having some connection via the organization.

FindLaw Network
Gary Jay Kaufman
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