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What is a RICO violation?

If you face federal RICO charges in New York, you may be unclear about exactly what federal agents and prosecutors allege you did. Despite the fact that RICO violations are white collar crimes, if the prosecutor convicts you, you face not only a substantial prison sentence, but also payment of a substantial fine.

Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act in 1970 in an attempt to bring mafiosos to justice. Since then, however, the government has used RICO to prosecute all manner of crimes including the following:

  • Embezzlement
  • Money laundering
  • Bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Mail fraud
  • Racketeering

RICO elements of proof

To convict you of a RICO violation, the prosecutor must prove all five of the following:

  1. The establishment of an enterprise
  2. Your employment by or association with the enterprise
  3. The acts, a/k/a predicates, committed by you and the enterprise that affected interstate commerce
  4. The fact that you and the enterprise committed two or more such acts within a 10-year period
  5. The racketeering pattern represented by the predicates

Enterprise

As defined by RICO, an enterprise can be a corporation, LLC, partnership or any other legal entity for which you worked or with which you associated. It likewise can be an informal and/or loose association of people with whom you worked to accomplish a common illegal purpose.

Racketeering pattern

While the government generally must prove that the racketeering pattern in which you and the entity engaged consisted of committing two or more predicates in a decade, this is the closed-end pattern approach. Alternatively, the government can take an open-end pattern approach by proving that the pattern in which you and the enterprise engaged consisted of committing only one recent predicate, but that you intended to commit others.

RICO penalties

If you face more than one RICO charge, you may serve a 20-year prison term upon conviction of each crime. In addition, you face a $250,000 fine for each crime conviction or a fine equal to twice what you and the enterprise garnered in your racketeering pattern.

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