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What to know about racketeering

On Behalf of | May 10, 2022 | Federal Criminal Defense |

Racketeering is a term that gets its name from pickpockets who made noises for distraction. Racketeering in Ocala, Florida, is commonly an organized scheme that involves several illegal activities.

Definition of racketeering and examples

Racketeering is a criminal activity that creates a business “racket” to generate illegal income streams. Some of these schemes date back to gangsters in the 1920s, such as gambling, prostitution, and bootlegging. Protection is an old racketeering crime that still exists today, which threatens a business harm unless they pay a fee.

Some older types of racketeering that still occur are kidnapping, drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, murder-for-hire, bribery, and counterfeiting. The organization may attempt to hide the illegal funds through money laundering, which is commonly done by making several small deposits.

A modern example of racketeering is cyber extortion, which occurs when an offender takes over a computer. They may install malware to block personal data or damage the system, and won’t release it until they get a “ransom”.

The RICO Act

In 1970, Congress passed the RICO Act, or Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, to help fight organized crime rings. Before the law, prosecutors could not charge an entity, and only the individual members received charges.

A criminal defense lawyer could argue the organization is not a crime ring, mistaken identity, and lack of intent. The prosecution must prove it was a criminal organization, the entity impacted the economy and it showed a pattern of activity. They must also show the defendant had engaged in a minimum of two racketeering acts, occurring in a ten-year period.

A RICO charge under Federal law can get the defendant up to 20 years in prison, property seizures, and a $250,000 fine. The charges usually include other crimes, which could increase jail terms. A good defense team may be able to find errors that prove the defendant’s innocence.