by | last updated on January 20, 2016
While the statute’s said purpose is to get rid of the invasion of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations, which operate, in interstate commerce, numerous instances have come up where RICO has been applied to individuals, organizations and situations, in ways that Congress did not intend.Because of the huge list of offenses, including white collar crimes, that could potentially qualify as RICO offenses, many organizations and individual persons find themselves subjected to the possible harsh penalties and punishments under RICO. Federal offenses such as mail, wire or bank fraud, bribery, money laundering, drug trafficking, and illegal gambling, might all be under the same limits of RICO if employed in a continuous manner by an organization that has some of the same leading mechanisms which operate at a length beyond what is necessary to engage in the racketeering.In most federal jurisdictions, to be convicted of a RICO crime, an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) must show enough evidence, that when submitted to a jury or judge, it would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. Said defendant was a person employed by or had associations with the outfit charged;
  2. Said enterprise was an ongoing organization, either formal or informal, and it behaved as such continuing unit;
  3. Said defendant voluntarily joined in the action of such affairs of the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. A pattern is defined as acts that are related to each other, and pose a threat of criminal doings in a continuous manner. At minimum, the AUSA must show two such acts committed within 10 years of each other; and
  4. Said enterprise was involved in interstate commerce or that its actions had influence on interstate commerce.

So how have the courts interpreted RICO violations?

A. The pattern requirement was met in the defendants’ law enforcement officer taking bribes, because the defendant had engaged himself in a series of criminal acts. United States v. O’Connor, 910 F.2d 1466 (7th Cir. 1990).

B. The judge in RICO suit was not required to take himself off the case, even though he had been involved with social and business relations with victims of defendants, the relationships had since ceased several years before the trial. United States v. Lovaglia, 954 F.2d 811 (2d Cir. 1992).

Possible Penalties

One may be found guilty of a felony, put in prison up to life, and ordered to pay $250,000, or twice the gross amount of monies gained from participating in illegal activities, whichever amount is found to be greater.

Most often, the prosecuting Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) will obtain a Federal Indictment from a Federal Grand Jury and charge a defendant not only with RICO crimes, but also with mail, wire or bank fraud, money laundering, securities fraud, drug crimes, and/or conspiracy/collusion to commit the previously mentioned crimes. One should also be aware that since 1987 parole has been extinguished in the Federal System. Expungement, which is the removal of conviction from public records, is also not available.