RICO is the acronym standing for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Passed into law by Congress in 1970, its original purpose was to fight organized crime.
FindLaw explains, however, that, over the decades, the Act expanded to include 35 separate crimes, including the following:
- Money laundering
- Illegal gambling
- Murder for hire
RICO characteristics and elements
Whatever the RICO crime or crimes for which you face prosecution, it or they must have the following characteristics:
- Pattern of illegal activity
- Occurring at an organized level
- Affecting interstate commerce
Furthermore, to convict you, the prosecution must prove all of the following:
- That a criminal enterprise existed with which you became associated
- That the enterprise committed at least two racketeering acts, called predicates, in 10 years
- That these acts amounted to a “pattern of racketeering activity”
- That the activity affected interstate commerce
Keep in mind that the enterprise could be, and often is, a legitimate business, but, in addition, provides money laundering or other illegal services to its owners or shareholders. Furthermore, your association with it need not be that of employee. Any association, however informal, is sufficient.
RICO prosecutions usually involve several separate federal charges, each of which carries its own penalties if convicted. The penalty for racketeering alone consists of a maximum prison term of 25 years and a maximum fine of $250,000.
In addition, if the jury convicts you, the Attorney General can seize any of your assets, including your home, that you acquired by means of your illegal RICO activities.