You may have only heard the term “RICO charges” on TV crime shows and in movies, but it is a very serious matter with severe consequences for those who are charged and convicted. The acronym “RICO” represents the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act and applies to different kinds of criminal activities that take place throughout the country.
About the RICO Act
This federal law (§ 1961) was originally designed to fight organized crime and passed in 1970. The accused can be an “individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity,” but can also be a group of associated individuals. There has to be two or more acts of racketeering within a certain time frame. The prohibited racketeering activities listed in RICO include:
- Acts or threats involving murder
There are others as well, such as dealing in a controlled substance and dealing in an obscene matter. RICO lists other illegal activities, like wire fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, collecting unlawful debts, and receiving income that’s derived from patterns of racketeering activity. In all, RICO covers over 30 kinds of crimes.
What are RICO Act Penalties?
Since RICO charges are of a criminal nature, those who are convicted of violating these laws face substantial penalties. To start, the hefty fines can be as much as twice the amount of any proceeds received from the illegal activities. The other consequence is even worse, as it involves prison time that can range from less than a year to a life sentence, depending on the crime and state laws. A first RICO conviction in Pennsylvania is a first-degree felony that comes with minimum of nine months in prison; the maximum is 20 years and a fine of $25,000. If convicted, the defendant’s total interest in the criminal enterprise is given to the federal government.
When RICO was passed, it also included procedural rules allowing the government to freeze defendant assets before cases went to court. This was done to ensure that the money would not disappear before the trial started and a guilty verdict was handed down.
Can the Government Prosecute Me Under RICO?
The RICO laws are not just for organized crime groups and their members. Those outside this realm can also be charged with the violent and drug-related crimes listed above. White-collar crimes like embezzlement, gambling, and mail fraud can also be charged, prosecuted, and convicted. Plaintiffs who were injured or otherwise harmed by RICO violations committed by other parties can also seek damages in civil suits. There is a four-year statute of limitations in these cases, but no cap on the damages.
In Pennsylvania, the state has to prove that you participated in two or more racketeering activities within a 10-year time frame in order to prosecute. They also must show that you participated or were invested in the illegal enterprise. Again, if charged under RICO, your assets related to the activity will be frozen until the case is completed and a verdict is handed down. If you are charged with multiple counts, the prison time and fines could be extended and increased.
The Philadelphia Business Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Defend Clients Facing RICO Charges
You should not face RICO charges without experienced legal representation, and the Philadelphia business lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. will fight to protect your rights if you have been charged. For a confidential consultation, call our Philadelphia offices at 215-574-0600 or complete our online form. We serve clients in throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.