West Palm Beach Civil and Criminal RICO Crimes Defense Lawyer
What Is the RICO Act of 1970?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO Act, was introduced as Title IX in the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The RICO Act was legislated to combat the growing influence and threat of organized crime like gangs and mafias in the United States.
The RICO Act gave law enforcement agencies much-needed tools to prosecute every level of criminal enterprise, damage or dismantle their operations, and prosecute the leadership. The Act outlines and prohibits activities related to criminal enterprise operations and how a person or organization may under its purview.
Predicate Crimes for the RICO Act?
There are 35 racketeering offenses defined by the RICO Act, which include 27 federal and 8 state crimes. Committing two or more of these offenses within a ten-year period, along with a provable pattern of racketeering activity, can result in a RICO charge.
Once two or more offenses are identified under a RICO allegation, they are labeled as “predicate offenses or crimes” in the context of the racketeering charge. This means defendants can be prosecuted for the original offenses and as predicate crimes for the RICO charge.
Some common examples of racketeering offenses include:
- Criminal copyright infringement
- Acts of terrorism
- Dealing in obscene matter
- Dealing or trafficking a controlled substance or chemical
- Identity theft
- Mail and wire fraud
- Obstruction of justice
- Money laundering
- Commission of murder-for-hire
- Embezzlement of union funds
- Bankruptcy fraud or securities fraud
- Human smuggling
Criminal RICO Charges
Prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all of the following elements were present when the alleged RICO crimes were committed. RICO makes criminal a number of activities that involve corrupt organizations. An experienced RICO defense attorney can determine the necessary elements for a RICO conviction under the facts of a given case.
Penalties for criminal RICO charges
The RICO act carries some of the most severe and, according to critics, disproportionate penalties in law. They include:
- Fines: The maximum fine, which a court may impose, for a RICO conviction is $250,000.
- Prison Sentence: Each count of a RICO conviction is subject to a maximum prison term of 20 years. Multiple convictions usually result in concurrent sentences for the defendant.
- Forfeiture of assets: Individuals subject to RICO charges may have their assets and properties frozen or seized by prosecutors before trial. Upon conviction the assets may be forfeited. It will only be released after an acquittal.
- Additional penalties: Each identified predicate crime can also be subject to penalties and sentencing in accordance with other laws.
Civil RICO charges
Like criminal RICO charges, civil RICO claims must be founded upon a pattern of criminal activity based on the 35 crimes outlined in the Act. However, achieving a verdict of liability has a lower burden of proof for the plaintiff to meet in civil claims. As mentioned earlier, prosecutors in criminal RICO cases must prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt. Civil RICO claims must only present a preponderance of evidence for a verdict of liability, as in most civil actions. Essentially, the plaintiff needs only to convince the jury that the pattern of racketeering activity is more likely to have occurred than not .
Additionally, the plaintiff must establish causation, meaning that the pattern of racketeering caused damage to his or her interests.
Damages in Civil RICO Suits
Defendants found liable in civil RICO cases will pay up to three times the amount of damages calculated by the jury, along with any legal fees and costs assessed by the court. As with other civil cases, there are no jail sentences for civil RICO claims.
What Do Defendants Need for a Successful RICO Defense?
To ensure getting the most favorable outcome, the defendant and his or her representation must be able to craft a defense centering on defeating these claims. Some of the most common defense strategies are:
Challenging the Commission of the Actual Criminal Activity
A RICO allegation uses the predicate crime as one of the foundations for the charge. Establishing that the predicate crime did not take place could be the first step in crafting a solid defense. Defense counsel can possibly undermine the plaintiff’s or government’s allegations that the predicate RICO crimes actually took place.
Denying the Pattern of Racketeering Activity
Predicate crimes must carry a criminal pattern of racketeering. Proof of patterns can be a similar modus operandi or proof of continuation of perpetrated crimes, i.e., using the gains from previous offenses to conduct future ones. Other examples are repeated victims, targeting victims with the same profile, or committing crimes with the same partners.
Discrediting the Element of Enterprise
RICO’s broad terminology can be utilized by courts and law enforcement agencies to potentially prosecute alleged crimes by legitimate organizations and business entities. Even with proof of committed offenses, not all enterprises fall under the traditional definition of “criminal organizations.”
Opposing the Implication of Criminal Intent
Intent can be a deciding factor in a RICO case. Even with the element of collaboration proven, prosecutors and civil plaintiffs have to prove that there was intent in creating a criminal conspiracy or enterprise when the defendant/s committed the acts.
Richard Serafini Can Help with Criminal or Civil RICO Charges in West Palm Beach
Call us immediately at (754) 223-4718 if you’re the subject of a civil or criminal RICO investigation in West Palm Beach or elsewhere in Florida.
Due to the broad wording and complexities of the RICO Act, it is imperative that you immediately enlist the help of an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer should you be charged with criminal racketeering. This will give you a good chance for a favorable court decision.
The Serafini Law Office handles defendants’ representation in both criminal and civil RICO matters and can work with you to attain the best possible outcome for your civil or criminal RICO charges. Our team will tirelessly protect your freedom, rights, and reputation. Additionally, Serafini Law represents plaintiffs in civil RICO actions.
Mr. Richard Serafini has been a practicing RICO lawyer for over 30 years. Previously, he served in the Fraud Section and Strike Force in the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of Main Justice in Washington, DC.
While working for the Department of Justice as a senior prosecutor, he represented the U.S. in the largest and most complex cases in federal courts nationwide. He knows organized crime laws inside and out and is your best choice to formulate an aggressive RICO litigation strategy to help you achieve the best results.
Our law firm currently offers legal services to the following cities and states: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York.