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What are RICO laws?

Many people associate the term "racketeering" with organized crime rings and mob bosses -- mostly based on portrayals seen on TV and in the movies. However, state and federal racketeering laws address a much broader spectrum of offenses.

Racketeering involves the running of an illegal business ("racket") by an organized group or the use of a legitimate organization to embezzle funds. These rackets used to involve primarily drug and illegal weapons trafficking, counterfeit operations and prostitution and sex trafficking.

Racketeering has expanded to other types of businesses. Entire once-legitimate companies have been brought down by people engaging in this illegal activity rising through the ranks -- draining pension plans, retirement accounts and shareholder investments.

In an effort to fight these rackets and prosecute the people at the top of the chain, who were often difficult to link to any crimes, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in 1978.

State and Federal RICO laws don't require prosecutors to prove that a defendant personally committed a crime. They do have to show that the person manages and/or owns an organization and that the organization regularly engages in illegal activity.

While most RICO cases involve some type of white collar crime, these laws have been used for other purposes. For example, several Catholic clergy members were sued by members of the Church for allowing the molestation of children by priests. It was also used against anti-abortion activists who were charged with blocking the entrances to clinics.

If you are facing RICO charges, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance. He ramifications to your life and career can be serious.

Source: Findlaw, "Racketeering/RICO," accessed Dec. 09, 2016

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