West Palm Beach RICO Claims Attorney
The West Palm Beach RICO attorneys at Pike and Lustig, LLP represent parties in civil RICO disputes brought under the federal RICO statute or Florida’s own version of the racketeering law. The stakes are very high in civil RICO cases, where defendants can be held liable for three times the amount of damages plus attorney’s fees.
Civil Rico Statutes Explained
RICO is an acronym for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The Act was originally enacted into law as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. However, Congress added a civil cause of action, which the Florida Legislature patterned, allowing an avenue for Plaintiffs to recover money damages when injured by a “pattern of racketeering activity.”
Civil RICO lawsuits are not limited solely to cases of organized crime but can be applied to “legitimate” businesses as well, when those businesses engage in a pattern of racketeering activity under the law. Under Federal law, the meaning of “racketeering activity” is found under 18 U.S.C. §1961, and the prohibited activities are delineated under 18 U.S.C. §1962(c). These acts can include, among other things:
- Bribery – Offering, receiving, or giving something in order to influence a public official is considered bribery. Under 18 U.S. code 201, a public official, in these circumstances, is considered to be a member of congress, delegate, resident commissioner, or a an officer or employee acting on the behalf of the U.S. or any branch of its government. Bribery is an illegal act used to take advantage of a situation, which can also occur on a commercial level. Commercial bribery occurs when a person gives something of value to someone in the private sector without the consent of that person’s employer, with the intent to influence the affairs of that company;
- Mail and Wire fraud – Mail and wire fraud are schemes that make use of the U.S. mail system or electronic sources (phone or internet) to defraud another of property or finances. This can be done with telemarketing, email scams, and mail, with example including offers of non existent jobs such as work from home schemes, land fraud, health insurance fraud, prison bail schemes, sweepstakes wins, and many more. Furthermore, the elderly are often mail and wire fraud victims because they are seen as easy targets of deception, especially when using the internet. Another growing scam is called the Business Email Compromise (BEC). BECs are a more sophisticated type of financial fraud that even CEOs are prone to falling for. Victims are usually people who regularly wire large funds, and the perpetrators also use malware to gain access to legitimate email threads and billing information. Since tracking BEC data in 2012, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has discovered that over 7,000 businesses have been victims, losing a total reported $740 million, only counting U.S. businesses. While many mail and wire fraud schemes were and still are easy to spot by most people, they are growing more sophisticated by the day;
- Extortion, including extortionate credit transactions – Extortion is a felony in Florida, as well as all other states. Threats of violence, property damage, harm to a reputation, or retribution in the form of a business or governmental decision are used to force the victim into giving the perpetrator property or money. Blackmail is one of the most common and familiar types of extortion. As such, the threat does not have to be an unlawful act, such as exposing a secret. However, threats of violence are also not uncommon;
- Embezzlement from pensions or union funds – Embezzlement is a form of theft and carried out by withholding certain types of funds. Oftentimes these are pension or union funds, taken by a member of members of the employee’s own company. In fact, there must be a fiduciary relationship between the two parties (the defendant and victim) for the crime to be considered embezzlement. Furthermore, the defendant must have taken finances intentionally and through that fiduciary relationship, otherwise the incident may be considered a mistake or another type of crime altogether; and
- Securities fraud – Securities fraud is also known as stock fraud. It is the practice of convincing investors to a certain decision (often poor purchases and financial losses) based on falsified information or deception.
Florida has its own RICO statute found in Florida Statute Chapter 895, which is substantively identical to the Federal RICO statute. Florida also has at its disposal Florida Statute Chapter 772, Florida’s Civil Remedies for Criminal Practices Act, which is also substantively identical to the Federal RICO statute.
Today, many businesses face civil RICO actions because Plaintiffs seek the recovery of treble damages under the Federal and Florida RICO statutes. Likewise, many Plaintiffs and their attorneys face sanctions in the form of attorneys’ fees for frivolously litigating civil RICO actions. RICO claims are an effective weapon for Plaintiffs; however, courts rightfully scrutinize the allegations closely to ensure that the allegations establish the “continuity plus relationship” required to show a “pattern” of racketeering activity.
Contact RICO Attorneys with Successful Experience Handling Florida Civil RICO Cases
RICO is, without question, one of the most complicated Acts in existence and must be meticulously litigated. The West Palm Beach RICO attorneys at Pike and Lustig, LLP have successfully litigated civil RICO actions for both Plaintiffs and Defendants in both Federal and State courts throughout southern Florida. If you are involved in a Florida state or federal civil RICO litigation, let the lawyers at Pike and Lustig, LLP assist you with your RICO claims. Give us a call at (561) 855-7585 or contact us online to speak with an experienced and successfully Florida civil RICO attorney.