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When the government accuses you of a RICO violation

Should you find yourself facing RICO charges in New York, this is a serious matter indeed. It means that the government has chosen to prosecute you under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act

Congress passed this Act in 1970 for the original purpose of fighting Mafia racketeering. Over the past nearly half century, however, government agents have also used the RICO provisions to prosecute alleged criminals who they believe participated in the following kinds of white collar crime:

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

Proving a RICO case

In any RICO case, the prosecutor must prove five separate things as follows:

  1. An enterprise existed or was formed.
  2. You associated in some manner with the enterprise.
  3. It and you committed acts, i.e., predicates, affecting interstate commerce.
  4. It and you committed two of these predicates within a single 10-year period.
  5. These predicates made up a racketeering pattern.

Proving enterprise

Under the RICO statutes, “enterprise” has a wide-ranging meaning. Not only can an enterprise be a regular business organization, such as a partnership or corporation, so can any informal, loosely structured organization. What makes an organization an enterprise for RICO purposes is that its purpose must have been to engage in and benefit from an illegal activity.

Proving racketeering pattern

The federal prosecutor can prove a racketeering pattern in two different ways. An open-end pattern consists of one actual predicate, but strong indications that the enterprise and you intended to commit additional ones. A closed-end pattern consists of you and the enterprise committing at least two predicates in a decade.

RICO penalties

Whenever you face RICO charges, you likely face more than one of them. The government usually includes multiple counts in any RICO prosecution it mounts so as to give itself a better chance of convicting you of at least one of them. For each charge on which you become convicted, you likely will face a minimum 20-year prison sentence and a minimum $250,000 fine. Alternatively, your fine could amount to up to twice as much as the enterprise and you made while engaged in the racketeering pattern.

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