What Is The RICO Act?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) of 1970 is a federal law passed specifically to fight organized crime. The law strengthened legal tools in evidence gathering by establishing new penal prohibitions and providing enhanced sanctions and new remedies for dealing with the unlawful activities of those engaged in organized crime. Common racketeering activities include crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, extortion, witness tampering, securities fraud, healthcare fraud, mail and wire fraud, gambling, bribery, money laundering, counterfeiting, embezzlement, and drug trafficking.
Under RICO, it is a crime for an individual to belong to an “enterprise” that is involved in a pattern of racketeering, even if the racketeering was committed by other people. The power of RICO lies in its conspiracy provision, based on an enterprise rationale, that allows tying together what may seem to be unrelated crimes with a common objective into a prosecutable pattern of racketeering. In addition, RICO provides for more severe penalties and permits a defendant to be convicted and separately punished for both the underlying crimes that constitute the pattern of racketeering activity and for a substantive violation of RICO. Injunctive relief provisions allow for the prohibition of further involvement with the labor organization of the convicted racketeering associates.
One of the most famous RICO cases in US history, dubbed “The Trial of the Century” is the United States v. Gotti. John Gotti, who was a notorious New York City mobster and head of the Gambino crime family. He was indicted on multiple charges, including RICO violations, in 1990. The case went to trial in 1992 and lasted for several months.
The government used the RICO Act to build a case against Gotti, alleging that he had engaged in a pattern of illegal activity for financial gain, including murder, extortion, and money laundering. The prosecution presented evidence of wiretapped conversations and witness testimony to support their case. Although Gotti was initially acquitted of all charges, he was eventually convicted in a separate trial and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Gotti case is often cited as an example of the successful use of the RICO Act to dismantle organized crime syndicates and prosecute high-profile criminals.
More recently, in 2019, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) brought a RICO case against the Sinaloa cartel, one of the largest drug-trafficking organizations in the world. The case was brought in the Eastern District of New York, and the defendants included Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the former leader of the Sinaloa cartel (and one who would become a household name after multiple escapes from prison) and other high-ranking members of the organization. The indictment alleged that the Sinaloa cartel had engaged in a pattern of illegal activity, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and murder, for more than two decades. The prosecution presented evidence of wiretapped conversations, testimony from cooperating witnesses, among other evidence, and after a three-month trial, the jury found Guzmán guilty on all counts, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses.
Because RICO is so complex, you’ll need to talk to a skilled and experienced RICO Claims Attorney who can help victims of racketeering activity or those who have been accused of engaging in racketeering. As experienced business litigation attorneys in Palm Beach, we have a deep understanding of the RICO Act, as well as other laws that may apply to your case, and would be happy to take your call today.