A white-collar federal criminal charge such as a RICO violation is something you should take seriously. You may associate RICO violations with organized crime networks and figure if you are not involved with organized crime, you cannot be charged, but that is not always true.
While the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (“RICO”) was enacted to make it easier to prosecute organized crime, there are many other types of individual crimes that could fall into the RICO violation category.
What crimes are RICO violations?
Most RICO crimes involve making or hiding money that is earned through some type of criminal activity. Bribery, drug trafficking, extortion and money laundering are some examples of crimes that could result in a RICO charge.
To prove their case against you, the prosecution must show that you were involved in racketeering, which is acquiring business through an illegal activity and that this racketeering behavior was repetitive. The repetitiveness of the activity is often a sign that defendants are part of some criminal organization.
Therefore, an isolated event without evidence of ongoing criminal activity is a potential defense against a RICO charge.
Lack of intent
The prosecution must also prove intent to convict you of a RICO charge. This means they must prove you knew that you were aware that a criminal enterprise existed when you committed your act. Lack of intent is another possible defense.
Since RICO charges involve investigation and research into ongoing criminal activity by groups of people or an organization, prosecuting RICO crimes is often complex. The prosecution must have ample evidence against you that was legally obtained.
Know your rights
You have a right to see and examine all evidence the prosecution has gathered against you. If any of that evidence was illegally gathered or any of your other constitutional rights were violated during the investigation or arrest phase, the RICO charge could be dismissed.
RICO charges come with serious penalties, including jail or prison time. Do not speak with the police or prosecutors but take immediate action to start preparing your defense.