What is racketeering and RICO? The “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act” (known everywhere as RICO) was designed originally as a tool to prosecute and punish those involved in organized crime. RICO was passed into law in 1970 as a response to Congressional hearings and widespread attention on mafia activities. Since that time, RICO has been used to prosecute mob-related activities and other crime schemes associated with the explosion of street gangs and drug traffickers in the 1980s and 1990s.
Today, racketeering crimes remain prevalent across Florida, and are prosecuted under RICO and Florida’s law on racketeering. In Florida, racketeering is charged as a first-degree felony resulting in up to 30 years imprisonment and $10,000 in fines. A racketeering conviction can also permanently damage a person’s career and personal life.
“Racketeering” refers broadly to criminal acts – often involving extortion and bribery – that make up a “racket”. An organizational racket is generally designed to obtain illegal profits and will involve numerous actors within the organization. When an organization or individual associated with an enterprise engages in illegal activity, they can be prosecuted under state and federal racketeering statutes.
Some prominent examples of racketeering activity include:
- Bribery and payoffs. Paying “hush money” to other businesses or individuals – including government officials and employees – constitutes bribery and is often done as part of an organizational racket.
- Money laundering. Money laundering involves taking funds from an illegal source – such as drug trafficking or mob activity – and transferring it to a source designed to make the funds look legitimate. This can involve the use of business “fronts” to “launder” illegal cash into purportedly legitimate profits.
- Gambling. Illegal gambling rings have been run by criminal enterprises for decades if not centuries. Profits gained by the “house” of an underground gambling ring are part of activities that can fall under racketeering laws.
- Drug trafficking. Florida remains a key point in the international drug trade, with smugglers subject to Florida drug trafficking laws and federal anti-trafficking statutes as well. Illegal enterprises that engage in drug trafficking can also be subject to RICO prosecutions at the state and federal levels.
- Kidnapping and extortion. Illegal racketeering options often will use tactics such as kidnapping and extortion to gain profit from those targeted. These actions involve taking people and/or property to hold as ransom for some desired sum of money. When caught, a person can find themselves facing not only criminal charges for the acts of kidnapping or extortion, but for involvement in a racketeering activity.
The Tampa Criminal Defense Attorneys at Trombley & Hanes Can Assist Those Facing Investigation or Charges under RICO
If you or someone you know has been investigated or charged with RICO violations or other racketeering-involved crimes, you should seek expert legal consultation quickly and take your choice of defense counsel very seriously. The choice between a skilled and proven racketeering defense attorney and other options can make the difference between freedom and years in prison. At Trombley & Hanes, our Tampa criminal lawyers will take your concerns very seriously and fight aggressively on your behalf. To start building your defense today, call our office at 813-229-7918, or visit our firm online.