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Racketeering Explained

RICO, which stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, is a federal act enacted in the United States in 1970. It was designed to combat organized crime by targeting the leaders and members involved in criminal enterprises.

Under RICO, a person or organization can be charged if they are found to have engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. Racketeering activity refers to a wide range of criminal acts, including but not limited to embezzlement, bribery, extortion, theft, money laundering, and all types of fraud.  Racketeering creates a false enterprise, sometimes a legal firm, to operate and execute their illegal and criminal activities.

To prove a RICO violation, the prosecution must establish two key elements: a pattern of racketeering activity and an association-in-fact enterprise. A pattern of racketeering activity requires at least two acts of racketeering within a ten-year period. An association-in-fact enterprise refers to an ongoing organization, formal or informal, which functions together to carry out illegal activities.

If convicted under RICO, the penalties can be severe, including substantial fines, forfeiture of assets, and lengthy imprisonment. Additionally, RICO provides for civil lawsuits where victims of racketeering can seek damages from those responsible.

RICO has been instrumental in dismantling various criminal organizations over the years, including the Mafia and other organized crime syndicates. It has also been utilized in cases involving white-collar crimes and corruption within corporations and government agencies.

Overall, RICO serves as a powerful tool in the fight against organized crime, allowing law enforcement agencies to target both individuals and organizations involved in illegal activities and disrupt their operations.


What is a scheme to defraud or organized fraud?

​"An individual or individuals engaged in a scheme to defraud; and from the scheme, obtained property."

"Scheme to Defraud" means a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud one or more persons, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act.

"Obtain" means to temporarily or permanently deprive any person of the right to property or a benefit therefrom, or to appropriate the property to one's own use or to the use of any other person not entitled to it.

How is an individual, or individuals held liable?

In a civil case, a preponderance of evidence must show:

The individual(s) communicated with a person to further a scheme to defraud; and from the scheme, obtained property.

Criminally, what is the punishment for a scheme to defraud?

If the value is $50,000 or above, it is a first-degree felony punishable up to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

(see Organized Fraud - Florida Statute 817.034)


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