Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) are used by federal prosecutors to charge and convict several people of an organization for committing several crimes. They have been brought against the Gambino and Bonanno crime families, the Key West Police Department for their role in illegal cocaine smuggling, and individuals connected to FIFA. Whereas many associate RICO with the mafia, they have broader applicability.
Some of the crimes covered by the RICO Act are “white-collar” offenses such as bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering. However, violent crimes such as murder, arson, and robbery can fall under this umbrella too. Everything we have just listed is an individual crime, but prosecutors may charge an organization with several of them at once to obtain a more severe punishment. The sentences for white-collar crimes are typically tied to how much money was taken. RICO cases generally carry heavy sentences.
What Must Be Proven
When someone is charged with a RICO crime, the federal prosecutor must prove several vital things:
- The existence of an enterprise;
- The defendant was employed or associated with the enterprise;
- There was a pattern of illegal activity, with at least two racketeering acts alleged; and
- The defendant participated, directly or indirectly, in the conduct or affairs of the enterprise.
Defenses Against RICO Charges
A federal prosecutor will have to prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt, and a defense attorney, by contrast, has to cast reasonable doubt on them. For example, we stated that there must be “a pattern” of illegal activity, which equates to at least two different criminal acts. The defense may argue that there was no pattern of illegal activity where, perhaps, the government can only show one criminal activity and not the requisite two or more. Another defense may be to call into question whether an enterprise truly existed.
Contact a Miami RICO & Racketeering Attorney
Some argue that RICO has been used outside of its original purpose and is unjustly applied to convict petty, nonviolent criminals while giving them long prison sentences. If you have been charged with a crime, contact our office to schedule your consultation. The attorneys at Puglisi Carames will defend you against RICO charges.