Racketeer Influenced and Corrupted Organizations Act (RICO)
At the Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP, we provide vigorous representation for individuals facing charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Widely criticized as one of the most-abused federal statutes on the books, RICO gives prosecutors extremely broad leeway to craft criminal charges against individuals who may not have even been directly involved in the commission of a crime. If you have been charged under RICO, our federal defense lawyers will fight passionately to enforce your legal rights.
RICO Violations Explained
RICO is a federal statute that was originally enacted in order to provide prosecutors with an additional tool to use in the fight against organized crime. Today, it is commonly used to bring charges against any group of people who are involved in activities, such as extortion and money laundering, that were traditionally associated with formal criminal enterprises.
Part of what makes RICO such a potent tool for prosecutors is that, if you are charged with a RICO violation and the government proves that you are part of a “corrupt organization,” you can be held responsible for the criminal acts of other members of the organization. This means that you can be convicted even if you were not personally involved in the commission of a crime. As a result, prosecutors often use RICO charges for strategic purposes – to bring in multiple defendants and persuade them to testify against each other in exchange for a lighter sentence.
To prove a violation of RICO, all the prosecutor needs to do is show that that you committed “at least two acts of racketeering activity” within a ten-year period, and that those acts were part of a larger organization or pattern of activity. 18 U.S.C. Section 1961 provides a laundry list of types of “racketeering activity” that can lead to federal charges under RICO. Examples include any indictable acts relating to:
- Fraudulent activity
- Transactions with labor organizations
- Misuse of visas and passports
- Witness tampering
The definition of “indictable acts” is extremely broad, and allows prosecutors to bring RICO charges for actions as simple as using money earned from a racketeering activity or being involved in a racketeering conspiracy. This is true even if you do not know you are a part of the conspiracy.
Defending Against RICO Charges
At Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP, we have helped numerous clients successfully avoid conviction for RICO violations and other federal criminal charges. In each case, we thoroughly investigate the government’s allegations to identify all possible defenses. We want to know more about your case than the prosecutor, so that we can anticipate all of the arguments against you and develop stronger arguments in order to prevent the government from meeting its burden of proof.
In RICO cases, possible defenses range from Constitutional violations (such as unlawful searches and seizures) to lack of involvement in the corrupt organization. When prosecutors get overzealous in seeking to use RICO to bring unsubstantiated charges, we can also argue for prosecutorial misconduct. Regardless of the facts at hand, you can rely on our criminal defense lawyers to do everything within their power to have your charges dismissed.
Penalties for RICO Crimes
If convicted of a crime under RICO, you can face fines of up to $25,000 and up to 10 years in federal prison. These are the penalties per count – often, prosecutors will charge multiple counts of RICO violations against an individual defendant. A RICO indictment may also allow the government to seize your assets prior to trial. This is yet another incentive for prosecutors to bring RICO charges in order to try to convince you to plead guilty to a lesser offense.
If the prosecutor alleges that you were directly involved in an organization’s criminal enterprise, the penalties for RICO violations would be in addition to the penalties associated with the underlying crimes. In addition to extortion and money laundering as noted above, these may include:
- Bank fraud
- Drug crimes
- Insurance fraud
- Internet crimes
- Tax fraud
Each of these crimes carries its own sentence of serious fines and decades, if not life, behind bars.
Speak with a RICO Defense Lawyer Today
Oberheiden & McMurrey, LLP represents clients in RICO and other federal criminal cases nationwide. As former prosecutors and experienced criminal defense attorneys, we are intimately familiar with the federal government’s tactics for seeking convictions under RICO. To learn more about how we can help you protect your liberties and freedom, call (888) 727-0472 or request a free case evaluation online today.