RICO: Not Just a Criminal Wrong, But a Civil Violation Also
In the movies, especially movies about crimes, there is often talk about racketeering. But racketeering isn’t just a crime—in Florida, it’s also a civil matter. Florida’s Racketeering law—often called RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization)—can provide damages for people who are injured by a pattern of what would be criminal racketeering activity.
Why RICO is Unique
RICO is unique because it makes everybody that is involved in a criminal enterprise, liable to the victim. That means that even if someone is not directly responsible for defrauding someone, or causing injury, the person can still be liable, solely by virtue of being part of the criminal organization or criminal activity.
RICO is shown by proving that someone has committed or conspired to commit any crime, of any kind. It also includes soliciting someone else to commit a crime, or coercing someone to commit a crime. Using money or proceeds that are derived from doing any of these things is a RICO violation.
To prove RICO, the victim must show that there were what is known as predicate acts committed by the perpetrators. The acts must demonstrate a pattern of criminal activity. Usually this can be shown that someone was in a position to commit the crime or wrongdoing, simply by being a part of the criminal enterprise or organization.
These predicate acts must have some kind of continuity, or be related—they can’t be unrelated, disparate acts. For example, a pattern of lying, taking people’s money, and disappearing, would all be related to the enterprise of defrauding someone—all of the predicate acts are done in concert, in furtherance of the goal of committing the fraud.
All of the participants in the criminal scheme (which again, also carries civil penalties and allows victims to sue outside of criminal penalties) must have some commonality. In other words, there must be similar methods of committing the crime, similar intent, or other things about the crime that make them similar. Think of an actual legitimate corporation, where the company does the same thing, the same way, with the same methodology.
Multiple People Can be Liable Under RICO
To be guilty of RICO, someone doesn’t have to have the specific intent to commit a crime, or defraud someone. If someone is working for an enterprise, while knowing that the enterprise, or other members of the enterprise are committing a wrong, the person can be liable for violation of the RICO statute.
The person also doesn’t have to commit a completed crime. Because RICO envisions an enterprise, where multiple people may perform multiple tasks in furtherance of the crime, so long as someone takes part in one aspect of the crime, that person can be convicted of, or sued for, violations of RICO.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig to help you if you have been a victim of a fraud, or business law related crime.