Racketeering is when a crime is committed or attempted to be committed in an organized way. This might bring to mind the Godfather movies which involved the mob or the mafia, but it can involve any structured criminal organization that conducts illegal activities.
Racketeering involves illegal businesses, as well as, legal business that commit illegal activity behind the scenes. Take a casino for example. They are a legal origination that looks status que on the outside, however, under the surface they might be guilty of extortion or theft.
What is Racketeering?
A racket is to solve a problem that wouldn’t otherwise exist without the enterprise offering the service. Racketeering is defined as the attempt, conspiring, aiding, abetting, coercing, or intimidated a person to commit an offense for financial gain.
For example, last April, hundreds of residents of Flint, Michigan, filed a racketeering lawsuit targeting Rick Snyder and other local officials over the lead contamination of the city’s drinking water. In the lawsuit it accuses Snyder and others of:
“wrongful scheme” to reduce Flint’s indebtedness by stopping the impoverished city from buying treated Lake Huron water from Detroit, instead of “invoking time tested, well-honed federal bankruptcy protections for restructuring the debts of municipalities.” Detroit Free Press
The RICO Act, The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970, is a United States federal act that provides for extended criminal penalties and civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO act focuses on racketeering. It allows the leaders of the syndicate to be tried for the crimes, which they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing.
In addition, the law also closes a perceived loophole that allowed the leader who instructed someone else to commit the crime, to be exempt from the trial because he did not actually commit the crime personally.
Under the RICO act a person can be sentenced up to 20 years in prison and pay a fine up to $20,000. Also, they must forfeit all illegal gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of racketeering activity. To be guilty a RICO act a person as to committed, “at least two acts of racketeering activity.” That is taken from a list of 35 crimes.
Examples of Racketeering
There are two types of racketeering that are most common: protection racketeering and labor racketeering. Protection racketeering is when an organization coerces a person to pay money for protection. The protection is typically to protect the individual form harm that the criminal organization has committed, or will commit if they do not get the protection.
Labor racketeering is illegally using unions or employee benefit plans for personal profit. An organization might try to bribe or coerce union officials for control of workers’ benefit plan funds.
While Protection Racketeering and Labor Racketeering are most common, there are many other forms of rackets.
Racketeering can involve:
- Money Laundering
- Loan Sharking
- Obstruction of Justice
- Drug Trafficking
Punishment for Racketeering
Like all crimes, the punishment for racketeering is going to depend on the specific details that are involved in the case. However, most can expect to face fines, prison time, probation, and forfeiting profits from illegal activities.
Seek Experienced Legal Help
In conclusion, when a person is charged with racketeering, it is important to have a defense attorney that has experience in defending Racketeering and RICO charges. RICO related charges focus on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts. There are options for individuals who are facing these charges. Contact us today.