The History of the RICO Act

When most people hear of the RICO Act, they usually think that mobsters and the Mafia are the only ones who are tried and convicted under these laws. But it may be surprising to learn that even so-called “legitimate” companies can be charged with RICO violations. For example, a popular multilevel marketing clothing company was hit with a federal lawsuit, alleging the company violated the RICO Act by duping people to become consultants for the company by claiming they could earn full-time pay working part-time hours.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO is contained in title 18 of the U.S. Code sections 1961-1968 and was passed in 1970 in an effort to combat organized crime in the United States. When the RICO Act was first passed it was aimed primarily at curbing Mafia crime but over the years has been expanded so that it can be used to go after a wide variety of organizations sponsoring crime. In order to do this, the RICO Act establishes severe consequences for those who engage in a pattern of racketeering as a member of a criminal organization via several key provisions. 

Key Provisions of the RICO Act

18 U.S. Code § 1962 lists the various activities that are prohibited under the RICO Act in detail, but arguably the most central provisions state that it is illegal to receive income from a pattern of racketeering activity in which the offender participated as a principal. Code section 18 U.S. Code § 1961 then goes on to list the various activities that qualify as “racketeering activity” under the RICO Act and notes that in this context a “pattern” of racketeering activity requires at least two qualifying racketeering acts to have occurred within a 10-year period.

Penalties and Remedies

RICO claims can be filed either in criminal court on behalf of the government or in civil court by private individuals, therefore the Act provides for both criminal and civil punishments for violators. These punishments include but are not limited to:

·       Criminal Penalties: Up to 20 years in prison (or life in prison if the penalty for the underlying racketeering activity includes life imprisonment) and/or a fine of up to twice the proceeds obtained from the illegal activity.

·       Civil Remedies: A fine of up to three times the plaintiff’s losses. 

Call a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney If You Have Been Charged

If you have been accused of committing a RICO Act crime, contact an experienced lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer in San Francisco from
the Morales Law Firm, to review your case and discuss your legal options.