Understanding racketeering charges

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2021 | Blog, Federal Crimes |

Many people have heard the word “racketeering” before, whether on the news or in crime dramas. However, most people do not understand what it really means.

According to CNN, racketeering is not a single crime. Rather, it involves committing more than one offense as part of a larger illegal scheme. This ambiguity is by design as the federal government intended for the charge of racketeering to have broad applications

What does a charge of racketeering require?

A person who allegedly participated in at least two acts of racketeering activity may face charges. The prosecution has to prove that there was a criminal enterprise in which the individual participated. Another requirement is that the enterprise has to affect interstate commerce, i.e., the transaction of goods, services or money across state lines.

What are racketeering activities?

There are 35 offenses that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act identifies as racketeering activities. A few examples include:

  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Extortion
  • Murder
  • Kidnapping

Committed individually, each of the offenses that RICO defines as racketeering activities could result in criminal charges. However, racketeering charges can only apply if a person has allegedly committed two or more of these activities.

What are the applications of RICO?

RICO is the law under which federal courts can prosecute charges of racketeering. The original intent behind RICO, passed in 1970, was to combat organized crime. However, RICO can have much broader applications beyond that. Courts have also prosecuted insider trading cases and the college admissions scandal in 2019 under RICO, charging participants with racketeering.

Conviction on racketeering charges can incur a $25,000 fine as well as a minimum prison sentence of 2.5 years.