In the United States, the federal RICO Act, (also known as the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Association Act) forbids racketeering and other conspiratorial practices. This Act has been passed to help counter organized crime, which provides strict penalties for anyone who is found guilty. Florida also has a separate RICO Act to combat racketeering cases in Miami and throughout the state. But what exactly are allegations of racketeering?
Racketeering and RICO are related to organized crime because they are committed by a collective. RICO can be connected to a legitimate company or to an illegal organization. As such, it is a prime subject for both state and federal prosecutors to prosecute.
Racketeering charges can be subject to stringent sentencing guidelines and lengthy jail sentences, fines and restitution, particularly when done in the federal court system and can also launch a separate civil RICO lawsuit against you. Just the crime of accusation, irrespective of the facts, will damage your professional reputation considerably.
Civil RICO lawsuits are not limited to organized crime cases alone but can also be extended to "legitimate" enterprises when those companies are involved in a pattern of racketeering activity under the statute. The definition of "racketeering operation" is contained in federal law in 18 U.S.C. § 1961, and the criminal acts are delineated under 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c). Among other things, such actions can include but are not limited to the following:
- Offering, obtaining or giving anything to potentially manipulate a public official (bribery). Bribery may also happen at a commercial level.
- Letter and wire fraud that uses the U.S. mail system or electronic communications (phone or Internet) to defraud another of their money or their property. This can be achieved with telemarketing, email scams, and fax, including, for example, offers of non-existent jobs such as land fraud, health insurance fraud, sweepstakes wins, to name a few.
- Extortion in Florida, as in all other jurisdictions, is a crime. Threats of abuse, collateral harm, reputation loss, or retaliation in the form of a corporate or governmental decision are used to intimidate the victim into giving collateral or money to the perpetrator.
- Fraud on shares is also known as stock fraud. It's the art of convincing investors on the basis of falsified facts or deceit to a certain decision (often bad purchases and financial losses).
A breach of the RICO Act is considered a first-degree felony offense under Florida law, with a potential sentence of up to 30 years in jail, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. The convicted party can also be subject to a fine of three times the amount of damages decided by the judge, instead of the $10,000 penalty. Such fines typically apply where the offender convicted committed racketeering crimes in which they gained pecuniary interest (money, property or services) or where the person convicted caused property damage or loss or personal injury to the victim.
You may be charged with a criminal offense under the Florida RICO Act if the prosecution can demonstrate - without reasonable doubt - that you were involved with a corporation and that you engaged directly or indirectly with the business by engaging in at least two racketeering activities. In addition, for cases in which you were involved, at least two of these cases had similar or the same types of accomplices, perpetrators, attempts, effects, commission methods or were interconnected by identifying features that were not isolated cases.
A prosecutor does not need to prove that the RICO activity had a financial incentive or that there was financial motivation behind the predicate acts.
The general information provided above about racketeering cases in Fort Lauderdale is meant for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for speaking directly with an attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case. Please call 954.500.0003 in Broward or 305.674.0003 in Miami to schedule a consultation with the Law Offices of Mark Eiglarsh.