Many people have heard of racketeering, embezzlement, and financial fraud and are likely aware that these terms refer to serious criminal charges pertaining to the illegal handling of money. This is generally where common knowledge ends, however. For those interested in learning further details about these crimes, here is a clear, concise explanation:
- Racketeering. This is a term originally coined in reference to organized crime. It describes a group of illegal activities conducted to profit commercially. These acts might be actual or threatened violence, bribery, extortion (using one’s own authority to procure something of value), and fraud. Depending on the circumstances, racketeering charges can be filed on either the state or federal levels.
The Racketeer Influence Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law was enacted in 1970 in Florida to allow officials to combine these types of illegal acts into one prosecution.
Each federal charge of racketeering can result in a prison sentence of 20 years. A life sentence is possible if any of the crimes involved in the group of illegal activities warrants a life sentence. Fines are typically imposed as well, and civil suits are permissible.
Florida’s RICO statute allows for both criminal and civil suits. It is a first degree felony, accompanied by a prison sentence of up to 30 years, as well as accompanying fines.
- Embezzlement. Embezzlement is the act of withholding goods or money with the intent of keeping (stealing) it, particularly when the perpetrator is in a position of trust or authority. A small-scale example of embezzlement may be committed by the treasurer of a community little league team. The treasurer, whom children trust with their dues, pockets the money instead of depositing it into the team’s account. This can accumulate to several thousand dollars over the course of a few years.
In Florida, the details of particular racketeering charges may cause them to be classified as either first or second degree misdemeanors, or felonies of any degree. The maximum sentence, for a felony of the first degree, is 30 years imprisonment. The least severe charge, a second degree misdemeanor, may result in up to 60 days in jail. All penalties include fines.
- Financial Fraud. Financial fraud is similar to embezzlement. It is the act of illegally procuring money for one’s own personal gain. It often “looks” different than embezzlement, though.
Many perpetrators of financial fraud contact their victims via telephone and email. These are the people who announce that a potential victim has just won an obnoxious amount of money in a never-before-heard-of sweepstakes. They are the masterminds behind get-rich-quick schemes that are simply too good to be true.
Also similar to embezzlement, sentencing guidelines for financial fraud crimes vary depending on the details of each case. Most result in fines and imprisonment. When comparing the three charges, embezzlement and financial fraud certainly do have the most in common. Since racketeering consists of a group of individual charges, though, it is worth remembering that embezzlement and financial fraud may be encompassed by racketeering.
It is obvious these types of charges are filed based on an abundance of particulars and complexities. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney is a prime resource for learning more.