Introduction to Organized Crime in America
You probably picture organized crime as a powerful and centralized crime family or syndicate. However, the federal organized crime and racketeering charges apply to a criminal enterprise of any size.
These crimes can be applicable to a group of criminals operating on a local, national, or international basis.
This scope and definition of organized crime give federal prosecutors a lot of leeways to use racketeering or RICO charges against criminal organizations operating in a variety of ways and practices.
Examples of Organized Crime or Racketeering
Organized crime and racketeering are defined as a single, specific action or set of actions. Instead, charges under RICO or other sections of the Organized Crime Control Act, are applicable when a group of criminals becomes disciplined, organized, and sophisticated enough to carry out repeated acts of criminal activity, in furtherance of the same criminal entity.
Examples of organized crime or racketeering may include any of the following.
- An international terrorist organization that plans and attempts to carry out the bombing of several street festivals or parades in U.S. cities.
- A local gang that develops a clear and specific hierarchy for members that traffic controlled substances. They also have a sophisticated form of communication and transportation.
Why RICO or Organized Crime Charge Are Serious
If you are investigated or charged by a federal prosecutor under the Organized Crime Control Act, you need to seek legal assistance.
A single conviction under RICO can result in a 20-year sentence in federal prison and a substantial criminal fine, amounting to $250,000 or twice the amount of losses from your offenses.
Hiring a skilled and experienced RICO defense lawyer is your best chance for strategic and robust defense.
What Federal Laws Discuss Organized Crime?
The federal statutes on organized crime and criminal enterprises were passed in 1970. These statutes were a direct response to federal prosecutor’s inability to charge and convict mob bosses, gang leaders, and other higher-ups in criminal enterprises.
Prior to the statutes on organized crime, these individuals that ordered other individuals to carry out criminal acts were protected by a series of loopholes.
The Organized Crime Control Act and a subset of that law called RICO closed the loophole and created direct criminal liability for the individuals that ordered or directed criminal activity.
The Organized Crime Control Act
The Organized Crime Control Act is a broad set of statutes that covers nearly every aspect of the criminalization and prevention of organized crime in the United States. Under these statutes, there are distinct areas of organized crime, including:
- Illegal gambling
- Violent crimes in aid of racketeering; and
- Gambling ships
Each of these illegal activities is criminalized under a separate section of the Organized Crime Control Act, with several statues dedicated to the definition, criminalization, procedural requirements, and prosecution of racketeering cases.
The statutes dedicated to racketeering are referred to as the RICO laws, which stand for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Crimes Punished Under RICO
The RICO statutes are found at Section 1961 through 1968 of the U.S. Code. These laws focus both on racketeering, a subset of organized crime that is primarily associated with dishonest business practices, and certain other organized crime carried out by an illegal, criminal enterprise.
Under RICO, racketeering is acting on or threatening to carry out a list of 35 different crimes as part of a criminal enterprise. These crimes fall under both state and federal law and include:
- Murder and murder-for-hire
- Drug trafficking
- Misuse of passport
- Acts of terrorism; and
To be prosecuted under RICO, an individual must carry out at least two separate acts of racketeering. This qualifies as a pattern of racketeering activity and opens the door for federal investigators and prosecutors to bring a case.
What to Do If Investigated for Organized Crime?
Federal investigators at the FBI have divisions dedicated to the investigation of organized crime and racketeering. These investigators, in conjunctions with federal prosecutors, are highly prepared and proficient teams.
You need to be similarly prepared and proactive if you are investigated for illegal gambling, loansharking, or racketeering.
- Hire a Lawyer: A federal defense lawyer should provide any and all advice particular to your federal case. If your lawyer offers any advice in contradiction to this article or other information on organized crime, that legal advice should be followed. Therefore, this is your first step.
- Cut Communication: Cease communication with individuals that could be implicated for the same criminal enterprise. Establishing that a group is highly disciplined and organized is part of the prosecutor’s responsibility, and your continued communication can be a source of evidence.
- Censor Your Information: You aren’t required to provide an investigator or prosecutor any information without a warrant. It could be in your interest to comply with a request for documentation, or it could be a detriment. Before allowing investigators to inspect business records, emails, or any other evidence, speak with your lawyer.
Contact an Organized Crime Defense Lawyer
There are federal defense lawyers that deal specifically with crimes of racketeering, illegal gambling, loansharking, and other organized crime. These lawyers have direct knowledge of the Organized Crime Control Act and RICO that can substantially help your case – from start to end.
You can expect a federal defense lawyer to handle investigation and collection of evidence in your defense, provide reliable and appropriate communication to the court and federal prosecutors, and represent you in court.