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Florida Passes Enhancements to the RICO Act

Recently, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 549 into law, which aims to enhance Florida’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) law. The new regulations are set to take effect on July 1st, 2016. All Florida business owners should stay updated on Florida’s RICO statutes. While many associate RICO claims with criminal activity, ‘legitimate’ businesses may also face civil RICO claims. If your company is involved in state or federal civil RICO action, please contact an experienced West Palm Beach RICO claims lawyer for immediate legal assistance.

Florida House Bill 549: What’s New?

  • Significant civil penalties: Florida authorities can now bring substantial new civil penalties for RICO violations. Businesses may be subject to up to $1 million in fines for RICO violations. Further, the state may also be able to recover compensation for attorneys’ fees and the expenses required to conduct the investigation. Legislators contend that these enhanced civil penalties will discourage businesses from violating the act, while at the same time incentivizing the authorities to take more aggressive enforcement action since the costs will be recoverable. Under these new rules, it is likely that authorities will take action in the case of smaller RICO violations, as these cases were often too costly to be worth pursuing before.
  • Stronger confidentiality provision: The confidentiality provision exists to prevent alleged Florida RICO statute violators from learning about the investigation in the early stages and disposing of any critical evidence. The enhanced RICO legislation includes two main changes to the law’s confidentiality rules. First, investigating authorities will now have the power to issue a subpoena to compel confidentially. The agency used to have to go through the court to get approval for a confidentiality subpoena. Further, the confidentiality period has been extended to 120 days.
  • Heightened civil forfeiture powers: Finally, Florida authorities with have greater powers to recover compensation for forfeited property that has been damaged or was disposed. Under the RICO Act, any property that was used, intended to be used, derived from or realized by racketeering activity may be at risk for civil forfeiture. For example, consider a luxury automobile that is subject to civil forfeiture under the Florida RICO statute; a guilty party can not simply destroy or hide that property in order to get out of the penalties. But, previously, Florida authorities could only seek fair market value for missing property if that property had disappeared after the filing of a RICO lien notice. Under the new enhanced law, Florida authorities can seek fair market value for any property that has lost value since the time the RICO civil case was filed. Further, Florida courts can force defendants to forfeit other property to make up for the unavailable or diminished value property.

Contact An Experienced West Palm Beach Rico Attorney

While it is good that the state will have the power to take on criminal enterprises, some honest Florida businesses will also inevitably get tied up in frivolous RICO action. With these enhanced enforcement mechanisms, it is more important than ever that you protect yourself and your business. If your company is facing a civil RICO claim, please contact the experienced attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP today.

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