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Federal Judge Dismisses Bank’s Civil RICO Lawsuit In Probate Dispute


According to a report from NPR Kansas City, a federal judge has dismissed a civil RICO lawsuit against the descendants (daughter and grandchildren) of Thomas Hart Benton, the famous painter and muralist. The civil racketeering case was filed by UMB Financial Corporation. The case has been dismissed based on the plaintiff’s failure to allege that a “pattern of racketeering activity” was conducted through an “enterprise.” Here, our Miami RICO claims attorney explains why the judge dismissed the bank’s civil RICO lawsuit and what lessons can be drawn from the decision.

Allegations: A Scheme to Force Liquidation of Artwork 

The UMB Financial Corporation (UMB Bank) has, until recently, long served as the trustee for the estate of Thomas Hart Benton. Mr. Benton passed away nearly 50 years ago. His artwork is of significant value. According to allegations raised by UMB Financial Corporation, the daughter and grandchildren of Mr. Benton developed a scheme to get the bank—as a trustee—to sell artwork because they needed cash.

UMB Financial Corporation alleges that part of the scheme involved the heirs of Mr. Benton going to media outlets and making false claims about the trust—including that some of the paintings were lost and the proper records were not maintained. In 2019, the heirs of Mr. Benton made a similar claim in a lawsuit filed in a Missouri probate court. Eventually, the bank responded with a civil RICO lawsuit against the daughter and grandchildren of Mr. Benton. 

Many Civil RICO Lawsuits Do Not Survive a Motion to Dismiss 

The civil racketeering claim has now been dismissed by the federal court in Missouri. The judge determined that the plaintiff (the trustee) failed to allege sufficient facts upon which relief can be granted. Notably, this is a relatively common ruling in civil RICO litigation. A substantial share of civil RICO lawsuits do not survive a motion to dismiss. Proving liability in a civil RICO case requires showing the following:

  1. The defendants engaged in a predicate act that constitutes racketeering;
  2. The defendants did so as part of a formal or informal enterprise; and
  3. There was a pattern of racketeering activity.

A civil RICO violation is far more than fraud. It is a very specific cause of action. Any plaintiff considering filing a civil RICO lawsuit must be represented by an experienced attorney. It is crucial that the complaint is well-prepared, with allegations that support all of the required elements of a civil RICO lawsuit. Otherwise, the complaint may be dismissed outright by a judge. 

Call Our Miami Civil RICO Lawyer for Immediate Help

At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida commercial litigation attorneys have skills, experience, and specialized expertise to represent both plaintiffs and defendants in civil RICO lawsuits. If you have questions about federal or state civil RICO litigation, we can help. Give us a call now to arrange a fully private review of your case. With offices in Miami, West Palm Beach, and Wellington, we handle civil RICO claims throughout all of Southeastern Florida.



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