Wednesday, September 10, 2008

RICO and The Mob

The act of engaging in criminal activity as a structured group is referred to in the United States as Racketeering. In the U.S., organized crime is often prosecuted federally under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), Statute (18 U.S.C. Part 1 Chapter 96 §§1961-1968.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as ―RICO, was enacted in 1970 to address the infiltration of legitimate businesses by organized crime. RICO is a federal statute found at Title 18 of the United States Code. Section 1962(c) of RICO prohibits persons ―employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign com-merce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enter-prises affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity.

It is easiest to understand the United States RICO Act when you realize that it was designed to be used to prosecute the Mafia. In the context of the Mafia, the defendant person (i.e., the target of the RICO Act) is the Godfather. The activities that are considered racketeering are criminal activities in which the Mafia commonly engages, e.g., extortion, bribery, loan sharking, murder, illegal drug sales, prostitution, etc.

The pattern of criminal activity has been occurring for many years and even possibly for generations. This creates a pattern of criminal activity in which the Mafia family has engaged. These criminal actions possibly done over a span of 10 years or more, constitute a pattern of racketeering activity. The purpose of the RICO Act is to hold the Godfather criminally liable for the actions of his own criminal network.

The government can criminally prosecute the Godfather under RICO and send him to jail even if the Godfather has never personally killed, extorted, bribed or engaged in any criminal behavior. The Godfather can be imprisoned because he operated and managed a criminal enterprise that engaged in such acts. The victims of the Mafia family can sue for damages civilly. They can potentially recover their economic losses that they sustained by the actions of the Mafia family and their pattern of racketeering.

The section of the RICO Act that permits civil recovery is section 1964(c). The persons who could potentially recover civil damages might be the extorted businessman, or the employers whose employees were bribed, or debtors of the loan shark, or the family of a murder victim.

Thanks to Dr. Janet L. Parker D.V.M.

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