What is a RICO crime?

If you have never before heard about RICO, this is the acronym for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act passed by Congress in 1970.

The U.S. Department of Justice explains that RICO’s original intent was to better empower federal law enforcement officers to fight the Mafia. However, over the decades, RICO’s reach has expanded to include the prosecution of such federal crimes as the following:

Money laundering

  • Bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Mail fraud

Elements of a RICO crime

In order to convict you of a RICO crime, the federal prosecutor must prove all of the following:

  • An enterprise existed.
  • You affiliated yourself with the enterprise.
  • You and the enterprise committed illegal acts, called predicates, that impacted interstate commerce.
  • These acts represented a racketeering pattern.

Enterprise and affiliation

For purposes of the RICO statutes, the enterprise in question need not have been a corporation, partnership or any other formal business entity. Any loose association of like-minded people qualifies. In addition, your affiliation with the enterprise likewise need not have been formal, such as an employer/employee relationship. Any type of relationship qualifies.

Racketeering pattern

The prosecutor has two choices when it comes to proving a racketeering pattern. If he or she can prove that you and the enterprise committed two or more predicates within a 10-year period, this qualifies as a closed-end racketeering pattern. If, on the other hand, he or she can prove only that you and the enterprise committed one actual predicate, but can also prove that you intended to commit additional predicates in the future, this qualifies as an open-end racketeering pattern.