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What Is A RICO Charge?

Recently, the federal government charged fourteen members of the New York gang known as the Double Nine Grim Reapers with RICO offenses, in addition to narcotics and firearms offenses. But what is a RICO charge?

RICO stands for “racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations.” The term comes from the 1970 RICO Act. This act allows both criminal prosecution and civil penalties for racketeering activity.

To count as racketeering, a person must commit certain crimes as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Offenses listed in the RICO act include:

  • Illegal gambling
  • Bribery
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Money laundering
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Drug trafficking
  • Slavery
  • Arson
  • Extortion
  • Drug dealing
  • Wire fraud
  • Mail fraud
  • Immigration fraud
  • Forgery
  • Tampering with a witness
  • Sex trafficking
  • Interstate transport of stolen property
  • Weapons dealing

To prove that someone is guilty of a RICO crime, a federal prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. An ongoing criminal enterprise existed.
  2. The enterprise was involved in interstate commerce.
  3. The defendant was either associated with the enterprise or employed by it.
  4. The defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity.
  5. The defendant committed at least two acts of racketeering activity occurring within ten years of each other.

Federal law enforcement uses RICO laws to target any number of organizations, including:

  • Crime rings
  • Gangs
  • Corporations
  • Mafias

The primary goal of The RICO Act has always been to give law enforcement a tool they can use against organized crime. A criminal RICO charge can add at least 20 years to the sentence for any crime covered under the Act.

Officials have used the RICO Act in problematic ways in the past. For example, the government has used RICO to intimidate political enemies. They’ve used the RICO sentencing enhancement to push people into making plea deals that should have gone to trial instead.

We’ve even seen people swept up on RICO charges which were barely affiliated with the organizations in question. The federal government often does this to force these individuals to testify.

Unfortunately, being charged with RICO while innocent can be just as devastating as being charged while guilty. In addition, the RICO statute expressly states that it is unlawful for any person to conspire to violate any part of the RICO act, which means the government does not have to prove that you agreed with every other alleged conspirator, knew every other alleged conspirator, or had full knowledge of all the details of any alleged conspiracy.

If you face RICO charges, you’ll need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney. The team at Greco Neyland is ready to help. Our attorneys have extensive experience helping our clients navigate RICO and associated charges, and we’re prepared to help you.

See also:

The Definitive Guide for Those Charged with Federal Crimes in NYC

What is Tampering With Evidence in New York?

What is Tampering with a Witness in New York?

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