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Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 46 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2009 Pages: 975-1026
Michael W. Holt; Kevin M. Davis
Date Published
51 pages
This article discusses elements of an offense under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), potential defenses to RICO prosecutions, criminal penalties for RICO offenses, and civil actions under RICO.
Enacted as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 with the intent of combating organized crime, RICO aims to eliminate organized crime by bringing “the highly diversified acts of a single organized crime enterprise under RICO’s umbrella” and “to curb the infiltration of legitimate business organizations by racketeers.” RICO, however, has broad application that extends beyond the organized crime context, because Congress intended that RICO “be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial purposes.” In addition to criminal actions, RICO permits private plaintiffs and the government to seek redress in civil actions. In order to prosecute a defendant under RICO, the government must prove that the defendant, through the commission of two or more acts constituting a pattern of racketeering activity, directly or indirectly invested in, maintained an interest in, or participated in an enterprise, the activities of which affected interstate or foreign commerce. Under RICO, the term “person” includes “any individual or entity capable of holding a legal or beneficial interest in property.” Defenses that may be mounted against RICO prosecutions include the invalidity of one or more predicate acts, limitation of actions, withdrawal from a charged conspiracy, “horizontal pre-emption” or “primary jurisdiction,” “reverse vertical pre-emption,” and constitutional challenges. Regarding criminal penalties, RICO violators can be fined, imprisoned for up to 20 years, or both. They are also subject to mandatory asset forfeiture. A review of recent developments in the application of RICO pertain to protests, tobacco litigation, heath care fraud, and police misconduct. 361 notes


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