The logistics of federal statutes, better known as acts, passed by the U.S. Congress may read robust when breaking news updates come across TV screens or social media feeds. REVOLT strives to make details a bit more digestible. Firstly, unlike state or local laws, federal laws are applicable to everyone in America. With this in mind, efforts to combat corruption and organized crime have evolved over the years, namely concerning the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970.

Racketeering activity is defined as “… any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical … which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment…” by 18 U.S. Code § 1961 and Cornell Law School’s records. These regulations often become affiliated with political figures, profiteers, and persons of high corporate stature, i.e., management consultants, financial advisors, councilors, auditors, attorneys, real estate appraisers, entertainers, etc.

The origins of RICO are detailed by Britannica accordingly: “U.S. federal statute targeting organized crime and white-collar crime. Since being enacted in 1970, it has been used extensively and successfully to prosecute thousands of individuals and organizations in the United States.” Persons connected to an enterprise in question can potentially be charged for crimes related to diverse patterns of racketeering, even if other associates were responsible for committing unlawful acts, under RICO. The United States Department of Justice archives states, “An ‘enterprise’ is defined as including any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity.”

Claim: What are RICO charges?

Rating: Convictions under the RICO Act apply to “… thirty-five different criminal offenses. It covers crimes frequently associated with organized crime, such as illegal gambling, prostitution, collection of unlawful debt … money laundering, kidnapping, and murder-for-hire,” registers Thomson Reuters’ FindLaw.

There are processes preceding any conceivable RICO convictions. An indictment is a written accusation of crime that notifies a person or organization of the charges pending against them. Moreover, evidence for RICO cases may take years to build before formal notice is delivered to those facing charges or the prosecuting authorities’ indictment can be made public. For those becoming familiar with the process of charging, the Office Of The United States Attorney summarizes as follows: “After the prosecutor studies the information from investigators and the information they gather from talking with the individuals involved, the prosecutor decides whether to present the case to the grand jury. When a person is indicted, they are given formal notice that it is believed that they committed a crime.”

It is crucial to note that a grand jury differs from a trial jury. Grand juries’ proceedings are held privately and generally consist of sixteen to twenty-three jurors, whereas trial juries are typically public and may consist of six to twelve jurors. Further, these processes are utilized for different purposes. As per the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts on behalf of the Federal Judiciary’s “United States Court” webpage, “A grand jury is presented with evidence from the U.S. attorney, [and] the prosecutor in federal criminal cases. The grand jury determines whether there is ‘probable cause’ to believe the individual has committed a crime and should be put on trial. [Whereas] a trial jury … decides whether the defendant committed the crime as charged in a criminal case, or whether the defendant injured the plaintiff in a civil case.”

After prosecutors establish that an enterprise exists, forces involved may need to assess whether or not alleged criminal schemes have the potential to persist during legal proceedings. There are additional factors to consider when reviewing charges against defendants. The Criminal Defense Lawyer digital “Federal RICO Laws” section validates that “… key elements under RICO involve: (1) engaging in a pattern of racketeering activity (2) as part of, or in association with, a criminal enterprise that (3) affects interstate commerce.” The prosecution must provide evidence of recurring illegal offenses within a decade’s timeframe.

Similarly, the publisher NOLO expands by writing, “To convict a defendant under RICO, the government must prove that the defendant engaged in two or more instances of racketeering activity and that the defendant directly invested in, maintained an interest in, or participated in a criminal enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce.” RICO permits civil remedies (i.e., monetary damages) and criminal penalties (i.e., prison), some of which may vary depending on the location of those convicted. For example, some states, including Georgia, have embraced a renewed version of the law. “A conviction under Georgia’s RICO statute will result in a 5 to 20-year sentence, a fine, or both … A judge may order a defendant to give up any business interest or property gained through a RICO violation,” published the Pate, Johnson & Church Law Firm.

Supporting these findings nationwide, the Federal Appeals Law Firm confirmed, “If found guilty under the RICO Act, you could be charged with fines of up to $25,000, and a prison sentence for up to 20 years. You will likely face a life sentence if one of the racketeering activities you were convicted of is punishable by life in prison.” Also, judges have the capacity to fine defendants as much as three times the amount of any earnings acquired through illegal methods, meaning successful plaintiffs can acquire treble damages. Likewise, “… any civilian can bring a civil suit if they have been affected by a RICO violation,” registered The Wiseman Law Firm.

Should a defendant’s legal team find errors concerning a RICO case’s facts, a Notice of Appeal must ordinarily be filed within 30 days of the decision to indict. “Grand juries do not need a unanimous decision from all members to indict, but it does need a supermajority of 2/3 or 3/4 agreement for an indictment (depending on the jurisdiction),” logs FindLaw. As such, appellate victories regarding RICO charges are infrequent, but the identification of appealable issues is always possible. “The process involved in successfully [appealing] a Rico Act violation is long and complicated,” confirmed the Spodek Law Group.