There are many types of RICO offenses that can lead to federal charges. Defendants are often surprised by RICO charges because they may not have been actively and intentionally participating in organized crime. Unfortunately, RICO charges are federal charges that can come with steep punishments and fines if convicted.
If you are facing RICO charges, contact a criminal defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, to discuss your case. We understand that federal charges are stressful and intimidating, but our attorneys know the laws, and they will aggressively advocate for your rights and your freedom.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was created in the 1970s to make the prosecution of organized crime easier. The goal was to shut down mafia crime organizations by permitting prosecution of mafia leaders for crimes that they ordered others to commit. Today the majority of RICO prosecutions are not related to organized crime; however, at least not the type of organized crime that was contemplated when the law was enacted.
Elements Of RICO Crimes
In order to prove RICO violations, prosecutors must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- An enterprise existed.
- The enterprise was engaged in or affected interstate commerce.
- The defendant was associated with the enterprise.
- The defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt related to the enterprise.
These elements are often loosely applied to criminal activity. For example, to establish a pattern of racketeering or unlawful debt collection, prosecutors need to show that two RICO crimes were committed over a ten-year period. They must also show that those crimes were, in some manner, related to the enterprise. The ten-year period excludes any amount of time that the defendant was in prison.
There are 35 RICO offenses, and some of the most commonly charged offenses are listed below.
- Mail fraud, wire fraud, and other types of fraud
- Obstruction of justice
What It Means To Face RICO Charges
Depending on the case facts and circumstances, RICO convictions can result in up to $25,000 fines for each charge and up to 20 years in prison. Under some circumstances, defendants can be facing the possibility of life in prison. Those convicted of RICO crimes are also required to forfeit all profits and assets related to the organized crime endeavor.
As mentioned above, RICO elements are often only loosely satisfied when these federal charges are brought against defendants. Prosecutors are known to file the most serious charges possible against defendants to intimidate them and make them feel pressured to accept a plea bargain.
In some cases, it is in the defendant’s best interest to accept a plea bargain. In other cases, however, the prosecution may have a weak case, and accepting a plea bargain may not be in the defendant’s best interest.
RICO charges do not have to result in RICO convictions, especially when you have a solid defense. Common RICO defenses include the following:
- Someone else in your organization was responsible for the illegal activities and conduct that took place.
- You were not aware of and did not knowingly participate in the illegal conduct and activities.
- The illegal conduct was not associated with an enterprise or organization.
- The evidence against you was gathered by illegal means, or your constitutional rights were otherwise violated.
- The statute of limitations has run out.
How Our Law Firm Can Help
Prosecutors use a handful of strategies to prosecute RICO crimes and negotiate plea deals with defendants. Our attorneys are familiar with those strategies, and they are experienced in negotiating with prosecutors.
If you believe that you or a business associate is being investigated for RICO crimes, our attorneys may be able to help before charges are even filed. We will discuss your business matters and any suspicions you have about being investigated or your business associate’s conduct. We will communicate with prosecutors and other authorities and agencies if it may benefit your interests and help to protect your rights.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
Contact a criminal defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, to discuss your charges or potential charges. Our attorneys will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the prosecutor’s case and your available defenses.
RICO charges are very serious, and convictions have lifelong impacts. Working with our attorneys will improve your chances of securing the best possible outcome for your case. See our Facebook page for additional information related to RICO charges and other criminal law matters.