Once used as a tool to fight organized crime syndicates like the mafia and prosecute mob bosses responsible for orchestrating illegal activities as part of a criminal enterprise, the federal RICO Act has since been expanded to cover a wide range of criminal acts committed through coercion or extortion. The RICO Act is focused primarily on racketeering, or participating in or making money from organized, illegal activity, and allows the federal government to prosecute not only organized crime but also legitimate businesses suspected of engaging in criminal activity, such as fraud or extortion. If you have been accused of racketeering and you are facing criminal charges under the RICO Act, you need a capable, knowledgeable attorney with experience handling federal RICO cases heading your defense. Contact Federal Criminal Defense Pro today to find out how defense attorney Daniel R. Perlman can help.
Skilled Federal RICO Defense Attorney
Before the RICO Act was passed, individuals who ordered others to commit illegal acts as part of a criminal enterprise were largely able to avoid prosecution, since they didn’t actually carry out the federal crimes themselves. With the passage of the RICO Act, the leaders of criminal organizations could be charged and punished for crimes they allegedly ordered others to commit, even if they didn’t commit the crimes themselves. Although the RICO Act was initially established as a means of fighting organized crime and taking down high-profile crime rings, the federal statute is used more often today to combat white-collar crime, political corruption and fraud, and allows federal prosecutors to combine all of an organization’s alleged criminal acts into a single action.
The RICO Act is a powerful and complex federal statute and RICO indictments brought by the government can result in serious criminal consequences, possibly including a lengthy prison sentence, significant fines and forfeiture of the defendant’s assets and property, as well as civil lawsuits filed by any individuals who were harmed financially by the alleged racketeering activity. Daniel Perlman and his team of lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Pro are committed to providing clients with the best possible defense against RICO claims and our firm will fight for your rights through every stage of your criminal case, from beginning to end. Based in Los Angeles, Daniel Perlman represents clients in a wide range of criminal cases in the California state court system and in federal courts throughout the United States, including federal RICO cases.
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a federal law that prohibits individuals or organizations (known as “racketeers”) from conducting organized criminal acts (known as a “racket”) as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. The RICO Act was signed into law in 1970 and the official purpose of the Act is “the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce.” Decades after it was originally introduced, the RICO Act remains a powerful tool implemented by federal authorities to combat a wide range of criminal activity, from violent crimes to fraud, money laundering and extortion, among other white-collar crimes. The RICO Act (18 U.S.C. § 1962(c)) states:
“It shall be unlawful for anyone employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.”
The primary goal of the RICO Act is to punish any individual or group’s use of an enterprise to engage in criminal activity for profit, and under this law, an enterprise is defined as “any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity.” Pursuant to the RICO Act, it is considered a federal offense for any person to:
- Obtain or maintain an interest in any business or organization through the use of racketeering activity,
- Use money gained from racketeering activity or from the collection of unlawful debt to establish, obtain or operate any business or organization that affects interstate commerce,
- Conduct the affairs of a business or organization using racketeering activity, or
- Conspire to commit any of the above acts.
What Crimes Does the RICO Act Cover?
Federal racketeering charges can arise from a wide variety of criminal offenses, so long as the offenses are connected in some way to an ongoing criminal enterprise. These offenses are known as “predicate” crimes, and in order for criminal charges to be brought under the RICO Act, at least two predicate crimes must have been committed through the enterprise within 10 years of one another. Some examples of criminal offenses covered by the RICO Act include the following:
Criminal Penalties in RICO Cases
The RICO Act allows federal authorities to charge individuals or groups of individuals with racketeering even if they didn’t commit the racketeering acts themselves, and also provides for more serious criminal and civil penalties for illegal acts allegedly carried out on behalf of a criminal organization. If you are convicted of racketeering under the federal RICO Act, you could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison for each count of racketeering, or, if the RICO charges include any predicate crimes that are punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder, you could be sentenced to life in prison. The court can also impose a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount of the illegal profits earned as a result of the racketeering offense.
In addition to facing a lengthy prison sentence for a conviction under the RICO Act, you could also be subject to asset forfeiture, which means the government can seize any money or property associated with the alleged racketeering activity, if the prosecution can prove that you earned the money or property from the illegal activity, used the money or property to carry out the illegal activity, or purchased the property using the proceeds from the illegal activity. You could also be forced to forfeit any interest you hold in the business or enterprise as a result of your racketeering charges.
The RICO Act also provides for a civil cause of action, which allows individuals whose business or property was damaged or adversely affected by the alleged criminal enterprise to sue the racketeer in civil court. If you are convicted of racketeering in federal criminal court, you are likely to be found liable in civil court, which means you could end up paying treble damages, or damages of up to three times the actual damages.
Defending Against RICO Charges
In order to find you guilty of the crime of racketeering in violation of the federal RICO Act, the prosecution must prove the following critical elements of the crime of racketeering beyond a reasonable doubt:
- An enterprise existed,
- The enterprise affected interstate or foreign commerce,
- You were employed by or associated with the enterprise,
- You engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, and
- You conducted or participated in the conduct of the enterprise through that pattern of racketeering activity by committing at least two acts of racketeering activity.
The key to a RICO case is that there must be a “pattern” of criminal activity, meaning at least two acts of racketeering activity must have been committed through the enterprise within 10 years for the federal RICO statute to apply. RICO cases are investigated by the government’s top federal agents and are handled in federal court by the government’s best federal prosecutors, who are trained specifically for cases like these. Beating RICO charges therefore requires the expertise of a confident and competent federal criminal defense attorney who can take the government to task, successfully challenge the prosecution’s evidence and get your racketeering charges dropped. As a former prosecutor himself, Daniel Perlman has a clear understanding of what RICO cases entail and how best to fight these criminal charges in federal court.
Defense Strategies for RICO Cases
Racketeering is an extremely serious criminal charge, but just because you have been accused of violating the RICO Act does not mean the prosecution can prove that you committed the crime. As in any criminal case, you are legally presumed innocent until proven guilty, and it is up to the prosecution to prove each element of the racketeering crime beyond a reasonable doubt. It is up to you, however, to retain an established criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the federal RICO statute and who knows how to defend against racketeering charges, so you can present the strongest possible defense in your case. There are a number of potential defense strategies a skilled criminal defense attorney can use to defeat a RICO charge, including the following:
- You did not commit or conspire to commit the crimes in question
- Your actions were not of a criminal nature
- You did not knowingly act with the intent to participate in criminal activities
- There was not a pattern of racketeering activity
- You were not acting on behalf of a criminal enterprise
- The evidence against you was obtained as part of an illegal search and seizure
- The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to meet its burden of proof
- The crimes involved in the racketeering charge were unrelated
Why Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?
The federal government’s investigation and prosecution of RICO Act violations is aggressive and comprehensive and if you have been charged with racketeering, the outcome of your case depends a great deal on the ability of your criminal defense lawyer. At Federal Criminal Defense Pro, it is the main objective of our attorneys to get your RICO charges dismissed or your penalties reduced, and we will do everything in our power to make that happen. When it comes to choosing the right attorney to represent your defense in a federal RICO case, there is no substitute for skill, competence and experience, and that is what Daniel Perlman and the legal team at Federal Criminal Defense Pro brings to the table. As a former prosecutor, Daniel Perlman is intimately familiar with the nuances of federal law and the RICO Act and has the skill and resources necessary to defend clients against potentially life-changing criminal charges like racketeering.
Federal authorities regularly use the RICO Act as a tool to fight white-collar crime. And since a criminal conviction under the RICO Act can have such far-reaching and long-lasting consequences, individuals in Los Angeles facing federal racketeering charges are encouraged to enlist the help of a reputable, aggressive criminal defense attorney with extensive experience handling RICO cases. When you hire Federal Criminal Defense Pro to represent your RICO case, our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers will review the circumstances of your racketeering charge and determine the best strategy for defeating the charge. Any time you are accused of a serious criminal offense like racketeering, your rights and your freedom are at risk, and you need an attorney in your corner who understands the gravity of your situation. With Daniel Perlman’s background in federal criminal defense and reputation for aggressive legal representation, you can ensure that your legal rights are protected and raise the strongest possible defense in your federal RICO case.
Contact Our Knowledgeable RICO Defense Attorneys Today
Individuals or organizations facing racketeering charges in federal court risk losing their business, ruining their reputation and spending decades in prison, not to mention facing the potential forfeiture of their assets and treble damages. If you have been charged with a RICO violation in Los Angeles, Southern California or anywhere else in the United States, or if you are under investigation for illegal racketeering activities, contact Daniel R. Perlman as soon as possible to schedule a free initial consultation and RICO case evaluation. Federal racketeering cases can be extremely complicated and often involve numerous defendants, and early intervention by an expert RICO defense lawyer is critical to the potential success of your criminal case.