Federal RICO Charges
RICO is short for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The law provides for special conspiracy charges against persons suspected to be directly connected, though not directly involved in criminal offenses.
The RICO Act was a part of an effort by Federal law enforcement to fight organized crime. On October 15, 1970, the U.S. Congress passed the Act and the results have been nothing short of revolutionary. Almost immediately, the Federal government became involved in a number of high-profile cases involving organized crime families from New York City to L.A. The headlines were exactly what both politicians and the public wanted.
RICO Charges Include 35 Distinct Crimes to Form a Criminal Conspiracy Pattern
RICO charges are often simply referred to as Racketeering. However, there are actually 35 specific laws which encompass the overall RICO offense pattern. There must be two or more of the offenses present over a ten-year period for the Feds to charge someone with RICO. Some of these include…
- Acts of terrorism
- Bankruptcy fraud or securities fraud
- Commission of murder-for-hire
- Criminal copyright infringement
- Dealing in obscene matter
- Money laundering
- Obstruction of justice
- Trafficking a controlled substance
The reason the RICO Act was created was because law enforcement was unable to tie organized crime leaders to the crimes they ordered. The existing laws did not allow for such connections.
After passage of the RICO Act, the Federal government began to prosecute not only traditional organized crime heads, but also heads of church, activist leaders, and more. In fact, some of the RICO charges have been silly, others not so much. To date, RICO Charges have been leveled against,
- Major League Baseball
- The Latin Kings
- Access Health Source
- The Chicago Outfit
- The Hell’s Angels
- The Key West Police Department
- Mohawk Industries
- The Gambino Crime Family
- The Drummond Company
- The Lucchese Crime Family
- The Catholic Church
…among others. In fact, anyone who holds a leadership position could potentially face RICO charges. Often, these charges are brought up on the slightest of evidence, but short of expert help, the charges could stick.
So, You’ve Been Charged with RICO. Now What?
Although evidence may be slight, the Federal prosecutors generally do not bring RICO charges unless they are fairly certain their case is strong. Thus, once you are charged there is usually enough evidence to convict unless a vigorous, expert defense is mounted.
If you have been brought into the station for questioning or are expecting to be brought in, call us immediately. If you believe that you are the target of the investigation, do not answer questions. That is the surest way to a conviction. That bit in the Miranda warning about “what you say can and will be used against you” is true. You may believe you are helping clear your name; what you are actually doing is helping build a case against you.
Give them the information to which they have a right: Your name, your date of birth, your address, perhaps your driver’s license number. Otherwise, keep silent. That is part of your defense strategy.
Pleading “Not Guilty” to RICO May be the First Step
After your arrest, you will then need to appear before a judge to be arraigned. This is the time to enter your plea of “Not Guilty, Your Honor.” Generally, your arraignment will occur within a few days, though sometimes a bit longer, depending on a number of factors. 18 U.S. Code § 3161 states that the general time frame requires an indictment within 30 days of arrest, barring valid reasons for an extension.
Regardless of when the arraignment is to occur, it is best to get started on a defense strategy right away. In fact, the more time between the arrest and indictment the better. At Robert J Callahan and Associates Criminal Defense Law Firm, we believe in conducting a thorough, independent investigation. During this time, it will be our hope to find exculpatory information which will persuade Federal prosecutor’s to drop the charges.
Thus, you may not even have to enter a plea. It happens.
Planning Your Defense to Federal RICO Charges
As stated, we start your defense the moment you call. If you refuse to answer police interrogation questions, all the better. You have taken a big first swing in your defense. Stay silent.
From the start, we are going to mount an investigation with a view to going to court. There will be motions along the way and if we can get charges dropped or reduced, we will. To that end, read about some of our victories here.
Our goal is to provide you with the most vigorous defense of your Constitutional rights possible. One of those rights, of course, being the right to liberty. We are going to do all in our power to keep you out of prison.
The Federal Prosecutor is going to have to prove five things to win a guilty verdict against you on RICO charges. These are:
- The existence of a criminal organization
- Your involvement (if any) within that organization; the ties must be clear
- Interstate commerce was negatively impacted by the crime
- At least two listed criminal acts were committed by the defendant or on behalf of
- These occurred no more than 10 years apart.
Finally, in order to prove RICO in court, Federal Prosecutor’s must demonstrate a conspiracy to commit criminal acts exists.
A key strategy then would be to test and retest every element in the government’s case. All parts must be aggressively challenged.
What Sort of Penalties Would You Face if Convicted of Federal RICO?
Generally, a conviction on Federal RICO/Racketeering charges carry a sentence from 20 years in a Federal Penitentiary to life. and a $25,000 fine for every count. Additionally, courts can order a forfeiture for property or assets obtained through illegal means.
It is not inconceivable that if you were to lose your Federal RICO case that you could be looking at a lifetime in prison and your family can be left without any property or assets. That is why in such situations, you need a legal team which understands the Federal system and has the ability to take the battle to them. This is a battle you must win.
If that were not enough, Civil lawsuits often follow. Win or lose, there could be plaintiffs seeking to recover damages. A victory for the Feds will allow for the recovery of triple damages in Civil suits. So there will need to be a double-edged strategy.
To Do or Not to Do When Charged with Federal RICO
Robert J Callahan and Associates understand what is needed to protect you not only in the case against the Feds, but also help insulate you in case others come after civilly. With nearly 20 years working in Chicago and nationwide, Robert J Callahan has gained a reputation for victories in both the state and Federal Courts.
What to do and not do he will advise. The most important thing to do is call. Call if you suspect the Feds are looking at you; call when you are arrested; or call after you bond out. Just call and let us get these Federal RICO/Racketeering charges handled the right way.
U.S. Justice Department RICO Conspiracy Charges
FBI – Organized Crime Glossary
United States Code 18:1961 – Time Limits and Exclusions