Many individuals have heard the acronym RICO thrown around, yet few people know what this federal offense is until they, unfortunately, find themselves facing charges for it.
RICO stands for “Racketeer Influenced and Corruptions.” It’s a federal offense that U.S. lawmakers signed into law in 1970 when the mafia and other entities engaged in organized crime were quite active — but it has since been expanded to cover many other situations.
What constitutes a RICO offense?
Virtually any instance in which individuals band together to form a business that has a sole goal to extort others may rise to the level of RICO charges. This means that your participation in counterfeiting, drug trafficking, prostitution or gambling may all lead to RICO charges.
Prosecutors have even previously successfully filed RICO charges against Catholic officials who were permissive of priests molesting children, pro-life abortion clinic protesters and entities that cyphered away pension fund monies from union members.
Existing RICO laws allow prosecutors to file charges against defendants big and small. It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to go after lower-level operatives and secure their convictions, as it’s often easier to catch them than ringleaders.
You do have a reason to fight the RICO charges you face
Many defendants feel like they have very little reason to fight their charges once they receive an indictment. You shouldn’t let that discourage you, though.
Prosecutors only know one side of the story. They have to win over a jury to secure a conviction in a case — and that’s much harder than getting an indictment. You have a right to put up a defense to the prosecution’s allegations. If you’re facing RICO charges, the wisest move you can make is to turn to an experienced criminal defense attorney.