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Prosecution and Defense of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) and Mail Fraud Cases

NCJ Number
M Christensen
Date Published
197 pages
The increasing use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and mail fraud statutes by Federal prosecutors is examined in speeches given to an American Bar Association (ABA) meeting in 1979 and in other materials.
Although RICO was intended to combat organized crime, prosecutors have been criticized for using it and mail fraud statutes to reach people who are engaged in economic activities that could not be considered organized crime. The ABA panel discussion on this controversy began with a representative from the Department of Justice (DOJ) defending the use of RICO by Federal prosecutors and claiming that it plays a valuable role in combating white-collar crime and corruption of public officials. RICO was then condemned by an attorney involved in defending individuals accused under RICO. The diverse applications of mail fraud, which are used frequently in conjunction with RICO, were summarized by a former Federal and State prosecutor. He maintained that DOJ policy limits mail fraud indictments to schemes which are directed to defrauding a class of persons or the general public, but that the statute can be applied to many frauds because the offense lies in the mailing. Following a comment by the panel moderator that the decision in U.S. v. Reid found that the scheme to defraud, not the mailing, was critical, a defense attorney emphasized that several court cases have not supported the DOJ's view that the use of the mails can be the gist of the offense. After reviewing other challenges to mail fraud prosecutions, the speaker concluded that the mail fraud statute remains a prosecutorially defined crime and constitutes a dangerous situation. The speakers commented on a simulated RICO case with motions to dismiss counts and answered questions on RICO case with motions to dismiss counts and answered questions on RICO prosecutions. The appendixes contain the text of the RICO statute, a DOJ explanation of RICO (see NCJ 77059), and two articles analyzing RICO and its potential problems. The text of the mail fraud statute and excerpts from the U.S. Attorney's Manual on its uses are included.