Civil RICO Claims: Proving Money/Property is “An Object of the Fraud”
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—or as you probably know it “RICO”—was originally enacted to target organized crime. However, in recent years, RICO has increasingly become a civil issue. Through a civil RICO claim, a legitimate business or organization may face a civil lawsuit for a pattern of fraudulent conduct.
In May of 2020, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion in the case of Kelly v. United States that many observers believe will make it more difficult to win a civil RICO lawsuit. Here, our Miami RICO claims attorneys explain how the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in Kelly v. United States (the ‘Bridgegate’ case) could affect civil RICO lawsuits going forward.
Kelly v. United States: A Complex RICO Case
While you may not be familiar with the case of Kelly v. United States, it is likely that they have heard of the underlying dispute—New Jersey’s so-called ‘Bridgegate’ scandal. In 2013, officials from Governor Chris Christie’s office ordered lane closures in Fort Lee. The decision was allegedly made to punish a local mayor with whom Governor Christie had a political conflict.
Bridget Anne Kelly, the Chief of Staff, was convicted of federal wire fraud and conspiracy charges in relation to the underlying incident. After a long, winding procedural trip to the nation’s highest court, the Supreme Court eventually overturned the RICO charges on the grounds that the scheme in question was not focused on “obtaining money or property.” The Supreme Court acknowledged that Ms. Kelly intentionally deceived others. Nonetheless, as the intent was not to directly gain money or property, it did not fit under the RICO statute.
What it Could Mean for Civil RICO Claims: Proving an Object of the Fraud
The Supreme Court’s decision in this criminal RICO claim—particularly the reasoning it used—could have significant ramifications for civil RICO lawsuits. In order to bring a successful civil RICO claim in Florida, a plaintiff must prove a pattern of violative conduct. In effect, this means that plaintiffs must prove at least two connected acts of racketeering, such as mail fraud or wire fire.
The reasoning used by the Supreme Court emphasizes that a RICO violation must be aimed at obtaining money or property from another party on legitimate grounds. Going forward, plaintiffs should be prepared to prove that the defendant’s money/property was the object of the fraud. Otherwise, the claim may fall short of the elements required to bring a successful RICO lawsuit.
Schedule a Confidential Review of Your Florida Civil RICO Case
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida civil RICO attorneys have the skills and experience to handle complex legal cases. If you have any questions about proving liability in a RICO claim, we are more than ready to get started on your case. Call us now for a strictly confidential review of your civil RICO claims. We provide legal representation to clients throughout South Florida, including in Miami-Dade County, Palm Beach County, and Broward County.