A racketeering offense (RICO) occurs when an unlawful or legitimate organization commits illegal activities such as murder, money laundering, embezzlement, extortion, and bribery. In Florida, RICO is charged as a first-degree felony, and it can result in 30 years of imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.
A racketeering crime can be prosecuted either in federal or state court. In either case, without a strong defense, a RICO crime can result in severe penalties that include expensive fines and long prison sentences.
What is Considered Racketeering in Florida?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was originally designed to prosecute individuals engaging in organized crime. Thus, many people relate racketeering to drug cartels, the mafia, and gangs.
Nevertheless, racketeering involves numerous types of unlawful activities. In other words, a RICO crime takes place when an organization or individual connected to that enterprise engages in unlawful activities. In this context, an enterprise might include a criminal organization or a legitimate business that engages in criminal activities.
Prosecuting Racketeers for RICO Violations
There are four ways to violate the criminal provisions of RICO laws.
- Invest or spend money earned from a criminal racketeering enterprise (designed to stop money laundering).
- Acquire or control an enterprise through racketeering.
- Participate directly or indirectly in racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.
- Directly or indirectly conspire to commit certain criminal acts as part of a criminal enterprise.
Criminal and Civil Provisions of RICO
RICO allows for both civil remedies and criminal punishment. Companies and individuals can use civil RICO to sue criminal enterprises to recover financial losses. The civil RICO statute allows a successful plaintiff to recover treble damages—that is, three times their losses.
When a person is charged with racketeering, they are often also charged with a variety of other crimes. They will face a criminal penalty for the racketeering charge: up to twenty years in prison and a fine of $250,000, in addition to penalties for the other criminal charges. Racketeering combined with drug trafficking or murder could easily amount to life imprisonment.
If you believe racketeering has affected your life or your business, or if you are being investigated for potential involvement in a problematic business scheme, it is very important to contact a local criminal defense attorney.
Attorney Russell Spatz has over four decades of experience in this matter and can investigate your case, answer any questions you may have, and file the motions on your behalf.
To meet with Attorney Russell Spatz to discuss your criminal matter, please call the Spatz Law Firm, PL, at 305-442-0200.