What is RICO?

RICO stands for the “Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations” Act. It was a groundbreaking piece of legislation passed in the United States in 1970 with the goal of financially crippling the Mafia. However, it has evolved to have a variety of applications today against many organizations aside from the Mafia.

RICO expanded the scope of potential prosecution against people who participate in organized crime along with the penalties upon conviction. In order for an offender to qualify for RICO and be charged with racketeering, he or she must violate two of 35 statutes within 10 years, and the violations must be linked in some way. For example, both rape and murder are included in the RICO rules, but someone who commits a rape and a murder would not necessarily be charged under RICO unless the crimes could be linked to organized crime in some way. Because RICO charges rely on proving a pattern of behavior, rather than specific crimes, they are generally easier to prove in court.

Under RICO, the assets of suspects can be frozen, preventing them from hiding their profits until the case can be resolved. If the RICO charge is proved, it can result in up to 20 years imprisonment on each count of racketeering, along with a forfeiture of all racketeering-related assets, including those tied into legitimate businesses. Furthermore, financial damages may also be imposed. Obviously, RICO is designed to hit the pockets of organized criminals by ensuring that legitimate businesses cannot be used as a cover to launder illegitimately gained money. It also allows civil claims, which means that people who feel that they have been harmed as a result of racketeering can also bring civil lawsuits, resulting in even more financial penalties.

Aside from the federal act, many states also have their own criminal and civil RICO laws. Generally, these closely resemble the federal act, but when in doubt, check with a local attorney for more specific information about the application and processes involved.

The effect of RICO has been quite significant. Because of both the enhanced criminal sanctions and the financial repercussions of a RICO charge, many criminals decided to try to strike a deal with prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence. This contributed to the weakening of the Mafia in the latter half of the 20th Century, because these deals often involved turning in other members of a criminal organization or offering to assist with an investigation in exchange for reduced prison time and keeping some of their financial assets.

Provided by HG.org

Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication at the time it was written. It is not intended to provide legal advice or suggest a guaranteed outcome as individual situations will differ and the law may have changed since publication. Readers considering legal action should consult with an experienced lawyer to understand current laws and.how they may affect a case.

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