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The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

Understanding RICO

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a federal statute enacted in 1970 that includes sanctions and extended sentences, as well as civil remedies, against persons convicted of performing or participating and activities that were part of an ongoing criminal organization. Originally passed as a part of the federal government’s effort to fight “organized crime,” the statute has been used in a wide range of criminal prosecutions, from prosecution of catholic bishops for sex abuse committed by priests in their charge to charges against the Key West police department for protecting cocaine and marijuana smugglers, from a civil action by a major league baseball owner against the commissioner and the sport to the prosecution of leaders of the Latin Kings, a Tampa-based street gang. Since the enactment of the federal law, a majority of states, including New Jersey, have passed similar state statutes.

Violation of RICO

To be charged with violation of the statute, a person must commit at least two acts of “racketeering” within a ten year period. There are 35 specific acts identified—27 federal crimes and eight state offenses. Among the offenses included are:

  • The violation of state laws regarding homicide, extortion, arson, gambling, kidnapping, bribery, robbery, pornography or controlled substances
  • Embezzlement of union funds
  • Money laundering or related crimes
  • Bankruptcy or securities fraud
  • Violation of federal statutes governing theft, bribery, embezzlement, slavery, obstruction of justice, gambling, pornography and fraud (as well as many other federal offenses)
  • Terrorist acts
  • The sale, distribution, importation or smuggling of illegal drugs

The Supreme Court has issued an opinion on what constitutes a “pattern of racketeering activity,” ruling that if certain acts have “the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics,” they may be found to be in violation of RICO.

Contact Our Office

At Jack Venturi Law, we bring considerable skill, knowledge, experience and resources to criminal defendants across New Jersey. To schedule a private meeting, contact our office by e-mail or call us toll free at 732-247-3340.

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