The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) was passed in the early 1970s with the intention of bringing down the mafia and organized crime, but today its broad application imposes severe consequences and penalties on defendants who often have nothing to do with organized crime and racketeering. RICO and its broad application to defendants who have committed two RICO crimes within the span of ten years have made it fairly easy to bring multiple crimes into one case in an effort to impose harsher punishments upon defendants who were not the intended targets of this 1970s Act.
Not just any Pennsylvania attorney can handle RICO violations and other federal crimes; only federal crimes expert attorneys should be entrusted to represent defendants in these complicated cases. RICO prosecutions have largely moved to groups of people allegedly profiting from the commission of white collar crimes. Prosecutors will often try to tie two or more illegal activities to a business or organization in order to process cases under RICO. Often they rely on coincidences and made up conspiracies to try to prove these cases.
Commonly prosecuted RICO crimes
The list of RICO crimes is extensive and some of the more commonly linked and prosecuted RICO crimes are listed below.
- Mail fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Securities fraud
- Wire fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Credit card fraud
- Tax evasion
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
- Obstruction of justice
- Illegal gambling
- Drug trafficking
Consequences of RICO charges and convictions
Some consequences that affect the defendant and sometimes their families in RICO cases are listed below:
- The Act allows the freeze of defendants’ assets that prosecutors and federal agencies believe may have been gained under the alleged illegal RICO activity prior to trial.
- Defendants may have to forfeit property and assets gained under RICO activity after conviction.
- Long prison sentences may be imposed so that convicted defendants may see decades in prison.
- Victims may file civil suits against defendants for damages up to three times the amount of their losses.
Defending RICO and other federal crimes charges
Good attorneys will argue for your innocence and work to discredit allegations of ongoing crimes or your connections to other people allegedly participating in the same crimes. They will review evidence collected by federal agencies and look for problems or holes in their cases. They will also look for violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights. While RICO is often broadly construed, experienced criminal attorneys will highlight the strengths of the defendant’s case and the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case in order to negotiate for lighter charges and better plea terms.