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RICO Charges Protecting Your Rights & Defending Your Future

RICO / Racketeering Charges

A St. Louis Federal Crime Lawyer Can Protect Your Interests

RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) and racketeering charges may be filed against leaders of alleged criminal organizations for various types of criminal activities, from fraud to murder. These are some of the most complex federal cases and often involve lengthy investigations that may span a period of months, years or even decades. The nature of RICO charges and the amount of resources that the federal government will utilize in its attempt to put alleged organized crime leaders behind bars mandates the highest quality defense counsel.

At The Hammer Law Firm, LLC, federal defense representation is a key part of our legal practice. This is a focused area of law, with its own set of proceedings, criminal offenses and personnel that must be dealt with in an expert manner to seek the best possible result for a defendant. Our attorneys have more than three decades of legal experience and are former prosecutors who have seen how both sides of criminal proceedings work. We use this knowledge to offer our clients the aggressive and effective counsel they need in the face of RICO, racketeering and all other types of federal crime charges in Missouri.

About the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon. It was originally created and enforced with the intention of prosecuting the Mafia and others who were actively engaged in organized crime operations, primarily the leaders of these operations. Previously, organized crime leaders were able to escape prosecution because they did not commit criminal acts themselves but rather ordered others to do so or ran operations that allowed for the commission of these crimes to forward their interests. The RICO Act offered the federal government a way to prosecute these so-called "crime bosses."

Through the decades, the application of the RICO Act has been more widespread. A person may be charged under the RICO Act for pattern of racketeering activity, which requires at least two racketeering acts committed within 10 years of one another. Such racketeering acts may include:

  • Violations of state laws applying to gambling, drugs, murder, kidnapping, extortion, robbery, bribery, arson or dealing in obscene matter;
  • Violations of federal laws applying to counterfeiting, fraud, embezzlement, bribery, obstruction of justice, gambling, murder-for-hire, money laundering and more;
  • Embezzlement of union funds;
  • Drug trafficking;
  • Bankruptcy fraud;
  • Securities fraud;
  • Immigration violations; and
  • Acts of terrorism.

A person who is convicted under the federal RICO Act, proven to have committed any two of the various crimes covered under racketeering activity within a 10-year period, may face up to 20 years in prison. Enhanced penalties may apply, however, depending on the type and number of alleged crimes committed.

In addition to facing imprisonment in federal prison, a person convicted of racketeering may also be forced to forfeit any and all property, assets and other benefits gained from the business or organization that was involved in the RICO violations. Even during a trial and before a defendant's guilt or innocence is determined, the federal government may attempt to seize all assets and prevent the transfer of property. Victims of alleged RICO violations can also file civil suits against alleged offenders to seek monetary damages, equivalent to up to three times the amount of their losses.

Who Often Faces RICO Charges?

RICO is a powerful legal tool initially designed to combat organized crime. However, its broad application has led to a wide variety of individuals being charged under this statute. Commonly, those charged with RICO offenses fall into the following categories:

  • Organized Crime Figures: These are individuals traditionally associated with mafia families or other criminal syndicates. They may be involved in activities such as extortion, loan sharking, illegal gambling, and drug trafficking. RICO was originally intended to dismantle these kinds of organizations by targeting their leaders and key members.
  • Corporate Executives and Business Owners: RICO charges can be brought against corporate executives and business owners if their enterprises are involved in illegal activities. This includes fraud, bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, and other white-collar crimes. These charges are often linked to schemes that defraud customers, investors, or the government.
  • Public Officials: Government officials, including politicians and law enforcement officers, can be charged under RICO if they are found to be participating in corrupt activities. This can include taking bribes, engaging in kickback schemes, or being involved in other forms of public corruption.
  • Street Gangs and Criminal Networks: Members of street gangs or other criminal networks that engage in a pattern of illegal activities such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons trafficking, robbery, and violent crimes can be charged under RICO. The statute helps law enforcement target the organizational structure of these groups.
  • Professionals Facilitating Criminal Enterprises: Lawyers, accountants, and other professionals who knowingly assist criminal enterprises can also face RICO charges. Their involvement may include activities like money laundering, fraudulent accounting, and providing legal cover for illegal operations.
  • Financial Fraudsters: Individuals involved in financial fraud schemes, such as Ponzi schemes, securities fraud, and other types of investment fraud, can be prosecuted under RICO. These schemes often involve complex networks of individuals and entities engaged in deceitful practices to obtain financial gain.
  • Cybercriminals: In the digital age, cybercriminals who participate in large-scale hacking, phishing, identity theft, and other cyber-related crimes can be charged under RICO. These individuals often operate in organized groups that coordinate their activities to commit widespread fraud or theft.
  • Human Traffickers: Individuals involved in human trafficking networks, including those who facilitate the trafficking of persons for labor or sexual exploitation, can be prosecuted under RICO. These cases often involve multiple actors and interconnected operations.
  • Drug Cartel Members: Members of international drug cartels that engage in large-scale drug trafficking, money laundering, and associated violent crimes are frequent targets of RICO charges. These cases often involve extensive investigations and collaboration with international law enforcement agencies.
  • Fraudulent Medical Practitioners: Doctors, pharmacists, and other medical practitioners who engage in healthcare fraud, such as running "pill mills," submitting false insurance claims, or participating in schemes to defraud healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid, can face RICO charges.

Common Legal Defenses Against RICO Charges

RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges are serious federal offenses designed to combat organized crime. Defending against RICO charges involves specific strategies tailored to the unique elements of these crimes. Common defenses include:

  • Lack of Evidence: Arguing that the prosecution has insufficient evidence to prove the elements of a RICO violation, such as the existence of an enterprise, a pattern of racketeering activity, or the defendant's involvement in such activities.
  • No Enterprise: Contending that there was no ongoing organization or association involved in illegal activities. The defense may argue that the alleged enterprise does not meet the legal definition required under RICO.
  • No Pattern of Racketeering Activity: Demonstrating that the prosecution has failed to establish a pattern of racketeering activity, which requires proving at least two acts of racketeering within a 10-year period. The defense may argue that the acts were isolated or unrelated.
  • Statute of Limitations: Asserting that the charges are time-barred because they were filed after the statute of limitations for RICO violations has expired. Typically, the statute of limitations for RICO offenses is five years from the last predicate act.
  • Withdrawal from the Conspiracy: Claiming that the defendant withdrew from the alleged racketeering enterprise before any criminal acts occurred. Evidence of a clear, affirmative withdrawal can be a strong defense.
  • Lack of Intent: Arguing that the defendant did not have the requisite intent to participate in the racketeering activity. This defense focuses on disproving the mental state required for a RICO conviction.
  • Duress or Coercion: Arguing that the defendant was forced or coerced into participating in the racketeering activity under threat of harm, thus negating criminal liability due to the absence of voluntary participation.
  • Entrapment: Asserting that the defendant was induced by law enforcement officials to commit acts that they would not have otherwise engaged in. This defense is valid if it can be shown that the defendant was not predisposed to commit the crime.
  • Selective Prosecution: Claiming that the defendant was unfairly singled out for prosecution based on improper factors such as race, religion, or political beliefs, rather than on legitimate law enforcement concerns.
  • Challenging the Predicate Acts: Disputing the validity or existence of the predicate acts (the underlying crimes that form the basis of the RICO charges). If the prosecution fails to prove the predicate acts, the RICO charge cannot stand.

Each of these defenses involves intricate legal arguments and typically requires the expertise of skilled defense attorneys. The complexity of RICO cases means that the defense must be thorough and well-prepared to effectively counter the prosecution's case.

Do not jeopardize your freedom, your reputation and your financial stability by hiring a subpar attorney. Contact The Hammer Law Firm, LLC and receive experienced insight plus aggressive representation when you need it most.

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