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Civil RICO: What Is A Predicate Act?


The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act) is most well known as the law  that helped to take down the mafia and other criminal enterprises. Federal and state RICO laws also have a civil portion. A private party plaintiff can file a civil RICO lawsuit to hold a defendant financially responsible for damages caused by racketeering activity.

RICO claims are complicated. Under federal law (18 U.S. Code § 1961), the term racketeering activity is defined to include a variety of different “predicated acts.” In this blog post, our Miami RICO claims lawyers explain the most important things to understand about how predicate acts are defined in the civil RICO statute.

A RICO Violation is More than Mere Fraud: Racketeering Activity 

RICO can be a very effective tool for plaintiffs. One of the key advantages is that that law allows for the recovery of treble damages. In practice, this means that a RICO plaintiff can seek compensation worth three times the extent of their actual financial losses. There are several specific legal elements that a plaintiff must satisfy in order to prove liability in a civil RICO claim. Specifically, a RICO plaintiff must prove the following three things:

  1. The defendant engaged in racketeering activities;
  2. There was a pattern of racketeering activities; and
  3. A formal or informal enterprise existed to carry out the racketeering activities.

Racketeering Activity Requires Proving a Predicate Act

Racketeering is broadly defined as fraudulent and dishonest business dealing. However, from a legal perspective, the term racketeering activities requires a predicate act. The term predicate comes from the field of linguistics. For the purposes of a civil RICO claim, the key thing to know is that predicate acts are simply acts that are explicitly listed by in the statute. Put another way, predicate acts are independently listed unlawful conduct that could constitute racketeering activity. Some of the most common examples of predicate acts cited in civil RICO claims include:

  • Money laundering;
  • Wire fraud;
  • Mail fraud;
  • Embezzlement;
  • Extortion; and
  • Bribery.

To bring a successful federal civil RICO lawsuit or Florida civil RICO lawsuit, a plaintiff must first establish that a defendant engaged in a predicate act as determined by RICO. These acts are racketeering activities. When you can establish racketeering activity, your claim can then move forward to the other key elements of a civil RICO lawsuit: 1) Proving that there was a pattern of illicit racketeering activity and 2) Proving that the racketeering activity occurred as part of an enterprise.

Call Our Miami-Dade County Civil RICO Lawyer for Immediate Help

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, we have the unique experience and legal expertise to take on challenging civil RICO claims in Florida. Do you have specific questions or concerns about what constitutes a predicate act under federal or state civil RICO law? We are ready to help you get answers. Call us today to arrange your confidential case evaluation. Our firm has offices in Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County and we are well-positioned to handle civil RICO litigation throughout Florida.



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