How To Prove A Predicate Act In A Racketeering Claim (Civil RICO Law)
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act) is both a criminal and civil statute. The law allows individuals, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to hold offenders responsible for losses caused by unlawful racketeering activity. To establish liability in a civil racketeering claim, a claimant must prove that the defendant(s) engaged in a predicate act. In this blog post, our West Palm Beach RICO claims lawyer explains the most important things to know about predicate acts and civil racketeering claims.
What is a Predicate Act in a Civil Racketeering Case?
To start, it is important to understand what a RICO violation entails. While racketeering is colloquially defined as fraudulent and otherwise dishonest business dealings, the legal definition is more technical. A predicate act is simply one of the (criminal) offenses listed in the statute itself. Predicate acts in a civil racketeering claim include the following:
- Wire fraud/mail fraud;
- Embezzlement of funds;
- Attempts to extort money; and
In other words, a predicate act is simply an independent, illegal form of racketeering activity. As a foundation of any civil RICO lawsuit—whether filed under federal law or Florida state law—a plaintiff must prove that the defendant(s) engaged in racketeering activity. That requires presenting evidence that there was some type of predicate act by the defendant. It could be mail fraud, wire fraud, an extortion attempt, or any combination of racketeering activities.
Going Beyond the Foundation: Pattern, Enterprise, and Damages
Establishing liability in a civil racketeering case requires plaintiffs to clear a relatively high bar. It is not sufficient to prove that the defendant engaged in a predicate act such as mail fraud, wire fraud, or an extortion attempt. That is merely one key step in building the foundation of a successful civil RICO lawsuit. There are three other key things that plaintiffs must prove to prevail in civil racketeering litigation:
- Pattern: A one-time predicate act is not sufficient to impose civil RICO liability. The statute requires a pattern of racketeering activity. By law, a pattern requires a minimum of two predicate acts that are closely related.
- Enterprise: The pattern of predicate acts must have occurred as part of an enterprise. The enterprise can either be a formal organization or an informal organization.
- Damages: As with other types of civil legal claims, the plaintiff must have sustained actual damages to impose liability and recover compensatory damages. A plaintiff must prove that their damages were caused by the defendant’s racketeering activity.
Set Up a Completely Confidential Consultation With a Florida Civil Racketeering Attorney
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida civil racketeering attorneys are devoted to helping clients find the best solution for their case. If you have any questions about proving a predicate act in a civil RICO claim, we can help. Reach out to us or connect with us online to set up your confidential appointment with an attorney. From our offices in West Palm Beach, Wellington, and Miami, our firm handles civil racketeering claims throughout Southeastern Florida.