What is a RICO violation?

If you face federal charges in West Virginia for having allegedly committed a RICO violation, this is a serious matter indeed. Even though RICO violations come under the heading of white collar crimes, which people generally think of as less serious than violent crimes, in this case, you face substantial prison time and substantial monetary fines if the federal prosecutor convicts you.

RICO is the acronym that stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act that Congress passed in 1970. The original intent of the legislators was to craft a body of statutes whereby the federal government could target, prosecute and convict Italian Mafia members. Since then, however, the RICO statutes have targeted other alleged white collar criminals as well, including the following:

  • Money launderers
  • Embezzlers
  • Counterfeiters
  • People engaged in bribery
  • People engaged in mail fraud
  • People engaged in racketeering

RICO elements of proof

To convict you of a RICO crime, the prosecutor must prove the following five elements:

  1. That an enterprise was established
  2. That the enterprise employed you or you were otherwise part of it
  3. That the enterprise and you engaged in predicates, i.e., acts, affecting interstate commerce
  4. That the enterprise and you engaged in at least two such predicates during a 10-year period
  5. That your predicates were part of a racketeering pattern

Defining an enterprise

As you might expect, an enterprise can be any type of formal legal entity such as a corporation, partnership, LLC, etc. It also, however, can be an informal entity with no particular structure such as a loose association between and among you and other individuals who worked together for a common illegal purpose.

Defining a racketeering pattern

The government can prove you and the enterprise engaged in a racketeering pattern in one of two ways: closed-end and open-end. A closed-end pattern is one where you and the enterprise committed two or more predicates within a decade and intended to commit additional predicates in the future. An open-end pattern is one where although you and the enterprise committed only one predicate, you did so recently and again intended to commit more predicates in the future.

RICO penalties

It is not uncommon for a defendant to face multiple RICO charges at the same time. If this is the situation in which you find yourself, you could serve a 20-year prison term for each violation on which a jury finds you guilty. In terms of monetary fines, you could have to pay as much as $250,000 for each violation on which a jury finds you guilty. Alternatively, you could have to pay twice the amount of the proceeds you and the entity collected while engaged in your racketeering pattern.

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