What is RICO?

RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. This federal law addresses illegal activity by organized crime rings – specifically racketeering and similar crimes. Racketeering is a crime under California state and federal laws.

The RICO Act does not always apply to gangs and the mafia. Sometimes people charged with RICO crimes have simply been involved with a group that took part in questionable activities. Often, the person who is charged was not even aware of the crimes.

Common Types of RICO Offenses

Federal racketeering offenses include a series of dishonest and fraudulent business dealings, including procurement or extortion of money through illegal means. They are typically considered white-collar crimes. Some of the most common California RICO crimes include, but are not limited to:

This is not a complete list of RICO charges. Many different crimes can be considered racketeering charges under the RICO Act.

What Are the Penalties for RICO Charges?

Penalties for RICO charges are severe. You risk losing your freedom, reputation, and financial stability. The exact penalties depend on the crime committed and the severity of that charge.

Some penalties for RICO violations may include:

  • Significant fines
  • Up to 20 years in prison per RICO conviction
  • Probation, parole, or house arrest
  • Payment of damages to the alleged victim
  • Confiscation or forfeiture of profits from the RICO-related acts

The media often sensationalizes RICO trials to the extent that judges and juries make an example of the defendant. Thus, in most cases, the penalties are much harsher than they should be.

What Defense Options Are Available in a RICO Case?

Your RICO lawyer may use a variety of defenses to protect you during a RICO case. The defense strategies they use will depend on the specific facts of your case and may include some of the following:

  • Lack of Criminal Intent – The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted knowingly and with the intent to participate in RICO activities. If they cannot do that, you should be found not guilty.
  • No Involvement – If you were not actually involved in the RICO activities, your case may be dismissed. Perhaps you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or there is a case of mistaken identity.
  • Illegal Search and Seizure – The police must have a warrant to search and seize your property with few exceptions. If they did not have a proper warrant, whatever evidence they obtained may be excluded. Without that evidence, the prosecution may not have a solid case against you, and the case may be dismissed.
  • Lack of Evidence – Without enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty, your charges should be dropped. The prosecution has the burden of proving that you are guilty. You do not have to prove that you are not guilty.

It can be difficult to understand how to beat a RICO charge. These federal crimes are complex and have many elements that the prosecution must prove. An experienced racketeering lawyer can help you develop a solid defense strategy to avoid the harshest consequences of these federal charges.