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Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2006 Pages: 869-919
James Morrison Mecone; Julie B. Shapiro; Timothy B. Martin
Date Published
51 pages
This overview of the provisions and applications of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) focuses on prosecutions for white-collar crimes.
RICO was enacted as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970; however, it has broad application beyond the organized crime context, because Congress indicated that RICO "be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial purposes." The U.S. Supreme Court has held that RICO may be applied to legitimate businesses and to enterprises without a profit motive. To prosecute a defendant under RICO, the government must prove that the defendant committed two or more acts that constituted a pattern of racketeering activity and directly or indirectly invested in, maintained an interest in, or participated in an enterprise whose activities affected interstate or foreign commerce. RICO prohibits acts that involve the investment of racketeering proceeds, the illegal acquisition of enterprise interests, conducting an enterprise through racketeering acts, and conspiracy. Likely defenses to charges brought under RICO are reviewed, followed by an explanation of criminal penalties. RICO violators can be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 20 years and are also subject to mandatory asset forfeiture, which enables the government to attack the economic roots of racketeering activities. One section of this article discusses RICO's civil penalties and civil cause of action for private parties. A review of recent applications of RICO addresses actions by protest groups, tobacco companies, health care fraud, concealment of income during a divorce, and police misconduct. 357 footnotes


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