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Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 48 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2011 Pages: 1075-1127
Sean M. Douglass; Tyler Layne
Date Published
53 pages
After introductory background material on the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), this article presents an overview of elements of a RICO offense, defenses against RICO charges, criminal penalties specified, civil actions permitted, and nontraditional uses of RICO.
Enacted as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, 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 beyond the organized crime context, because Congress mandated that RICO "be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial purposes." Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that RICO may be applied to legitimate businesses and to enterprises without a profit motive. In addition to criminal actions, RICO permits private plaintiffs and the government to seek redress in civil actions. This article generally addresses RICO prosecutions for white-collar crimes. One section of the article discusses the elements of a RICO offense. In order to prosecute a defendant under RICO, the prosecution 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 whose activities affected interstate or foreign commerce. Defenses against charges brought under RICO focus on the invalidity of one or more predicate acts, the limitation of actions, withdrawal from the charged conspiracy, "horizontal pre-emption" or "primary jurisdiction," "reverse vertical pre-emption," and constitutional challenges. Also discussed in the article are civil penalties under RICO and a civil cause of action for private parties. Nontraditional uses of RICO focus on protests, tobacco litigation, health care fraud, and police misconduct. 365 notes


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