Racketeering or “RICO” is a Federal crime traditionally aimed at mafia organizations, or groups of individuals in general, participating in some type of organized crime. In essence RICO provides a vehicle for the United States government to charge and prosecute individuals with a harsher crime than the individual crimes committed in concert with each other. For example if several actors agree to commit several unrelated and rather minor crimes the punishment for each of those crimes might not be very significant. In charging those same individuals using the RICO statute, the government now has a charging vehicle that opens the door to a much more serious penalty and further a method to charge an entire organization at the same time. It is of utmost importance that if you are charged with a violation of the RICO statute that you seek the counsel of an experienced criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Our Federal criminal defense attorneys are consistently in our local Federal courts and possess the know how and drive to handle your case professionally and effectively.
Often RICO is used to prosecute the following types of charges:
- Wire Fraud
- Tax Evasion
- Drug Conspiracy
- Alien Smuggling
- Dealing in Obscene Materials possibly related to Child Pornography
RICO prosecutions are always the product of a multi-agency, long term investigation into individuals who have likely been on law enforcement’s radar for a number of years. While not everyone charged with a RICO offense bears the same responsibility, the government attempts to show that an individual charged is associated with something called an enterprise. An enterprise is, in sum and substance, a group of people who associate with each other for the purpose of engaging in a course of conduct. For purposes of a RICO charge, that course of conduct would be criminal in nature and aimed and furthering the finances or status of the criminal enterprise and there must be two such acts within a ten-year period of time.
For purposes of trial, summarized, the United States must show the following:
- The accused is, in some way, associated with an enterprise;
- The accused committed, with knowledge, or aided and abetted with knowledge, at least two acts of racketeering activity;
- The two acts of racketeering activity were connected by a plan or motive making up a pattern of criminal activity, not a series of separate, isolated, acts that are not connected;
- In committing the connected acts, the accused therefore partook in conducting the enterprise's affairs; and
- The enterprise was involved in or affected interstate commerce.
If convicted of racketeering, you will be subject to a twenty (20) year maximum penalty, however if a violent crime is committed, the United States may pursue what is called a “VCAR” (violent crimes in aid of racketeering) RICO, wherein the maximum penalty is often a life sentence.How Can We Help?
Racketeering charges are extremely complex and serious charges. However, there are often defenses available to our clients. With a little hard work and investigation we can often discover information to potentially show that our client was not involved in the allegation or negotiate other avenues that can offer assistance to our client. Because the United States Attorney’s Office must prove that an enterprise actually exists and then show that the defendants each committed some type of illegal act during the course of the enterprise’s existence, it is a two prong hurdle the United States Attorney must navigate before proving RICO against you. Inherent in the burden of more proof for the Prosecutor is the increased likelihood of better defenses being available to the Defendant. Our Tampa RICO lawyers understand this and will ensure that your legal rights are protected. If you’ve been charged with a violation of the Racketeering statute don’t delay, contact our Tampa criminal lawyers as soon as possible. We’re available for a free consultation at 813-444-7435.