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Civil RICO Lawsuit Alleges Contractor Embezzled Nearly $600,000 In Vermont Project


According to a report from VTDigger, a contractor has been accused of embezzlement of more than $600,000 from a non-profit organization in a civil RICO lawsuit filed in a state court in Vermont. The plaintiff ValleyNet—a nonprofit that operates the internet provider “ECFiber”—alleges that a contractor named John Van Vught diverted funds before disappearing. Here, our Miami RICO claims attorney discusses the case and the standard of liability in civil racketeering claims.

Allegations: Accountant Diverted Funds Over Course of Nearly a Decade 

The legal complaint filed in a Vermont State Court alleges that John Van Vught worked on a contract as an accountant for ValleyNet from 2013 to 2022. The lawsuit contends that Mr. Van Vught embezzled more than $593,000 over the course of that period—gradually transferring funds from the nonprofit organization’s bank account to his own personal bank account. The civil lawsuit alleges a number of different causes of action, including embezzlement, breach of fiduciary duty, and a civil RICO violation. VTDigger reports that the defendant cannot be located. It is a pending civil matter and no wrongdoing on the part of any party has been established at this time.

 Proving Civil RICO Liability Requires Establishing a Pattern of Racketeering Activity 

There is a lot at stake in a civil racketeering lawsuit. A civil RICO claim can be a very powerful remedy for a plaintiff who has been defrauded. Through a successful civil racketeering lawsuit, a plaintiff can sue for three times the value of their actual damages. For example, if a company sustained $600,000 losses through racketeering by an embezzling contractor—as is allegedly the case here—it could seek $1.8 million in financial relief through a civil RICO lawsuit.

However, proving liability in a civil RICO claim is not easy. Both federal courts and state courts throughout the country have consistently ruled that a RICO violation is a high bar to meet. There are specific elements. A plaintiff must prove losses caused by a pattern of racketeering activity as part of a formal or informal enterprise. This can be an issue in cases in which one individual is accused of orchestrating misconduct. Though, it is not an impossible burden in these cases. Courts have found that it is possible for an individual to form an “enterprise” with companies or organizations that they own and control. Even if a RICO violation cannot be established, a party that suffered damages can still bring other civil claims, including for things like fraud or breach of fiduciary duty.

 Speak to Our Civil RICO Attorney in Southeastern Florida

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we have the legal skill to advocate for both plaintiffs and defendants in civil racketeering claims. If you have any specific questions about your rights or your options, we are here to provide legal guidance. Contact us now for a private case review. With legal office locations in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Wellington, we represent clients across the region.



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