RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. The RICO Act became federal law in 1970. The law was enacted as a means for law enforcement to undercut organized crime. Namely, it was designed to reach organized crime figures whom hid behind seemingly legitimate businesses. Since its inception it has been applied beyond enterprises that are traditionally thought of as “organized crime,” such as; corrupt police departments, street gangs, political groups, private businesses, investment companies, and politicians. The RICO law also has a civil component which allows litigants to attempt to recover monetary damages against civil RICO defendants. The RICO statutes can be found at 18 U.S.C. §§1961-1968
The actual RICO law is somewhat difficult to conceptualize. Essentially, the RICO law allows federal prosecutors to charge persons whom they believe have engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity” or “collection of an unlawful debt” and who have a relationship to an “enterprise” that affects interstate or foreign commerce. The term “enterprise” has been interpreted liberally. For example, an unofficial and loosely associated group of individuals with a common interest has been found to meet the definition. A “pattern of racketeering activity” requires proof that the individual participated in two or more crimes in furtherance of the enterprise. Oftentimes the predicate crimes are acts that are typically prosecuted in state court; such as, murder, robbery, arson, and drug dealing.
The RICO law also allows individuals to be charged with conspiracy to violate RICO. The penalties for RICO convictions are often severe.
Though not prosecuted frequently in Massachusetts, Attorney Henry Fasoldt has RICO defense experience. Call him if you or a loved one is being investigated for, or charged with, RICO crimes.