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RICO: What is it and why is it important?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2017 | Criminal Defense |

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was initially intended to combat the Mafia, but it has extended its reach in recent years to combat a wider range of illegal activities. The RICO Act states that the leaders of an organization can face the same penalties as lower-level members as long as the leaders are the ones who issued the commands for the crime to take place. A number of different crimes can fall under the act’s jurisdiction, including drug dealing, counterfeiting, arson, murder, illegal gambling and much more.

Frank Tieri was the first Mafia boss to face charges under the RICO Act, and there have been numerous notable cases in the decades since. A person who invests money in a criminal enterprise, even unknowingly, may face criminal charges.

What is the RICO Act?

Congress enacted the RICO Act to fight criminal organizations or people conspiring to commit illegal activities as a group. Not only does it allow police to bring criminal charges against the conspirators, but it also makes it simpler for any injured parties to file a civil lawsuit. For a person to face charges under the RICO Act, he or she must receive convictions of a minimum of two crimes detailed within the act within a 10-year period. 

Why is it significant?

The RICO Act provides law enforcement with the tools to successfully bring charges against multiple people who are a part of the same organization. Some of the groups that have faced prosecution under the RICO Act include:

  • Street gangs
  • Drug cartels
  • Political parties
  • Corrupt police departments
  • Insurance and securities firms
  • Terrorist organizations

Since the RICO Act allows victims to reclaim compensation as high as three times the amount of money lost, the RICO Act often accomplishes its goal of completely crippling an organization. Instead of merely taking out a few lower-level members, the RICO Act makes it simpler to eliminate the people at the very top.