Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

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Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act
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Long titleAn Act relating to the control of organized crime in the United States
Acronyms (colloquial)
  • OCCA
  • RICO
NicknamesOrganized Crime Control Act of 1970
Enacted bythe 91st United States Congress
EffectiveOctober 15, 1970
Citations
Public law 91-452
Statutes at Large 84  Stat.   922-3 aka 84 Stat. 941
Codification
Titles amended 18 U.S.C.: Crimes and Criminal Procedure
U.S.C. sections created 18 U.S.C.   §§ 19611968
Legislative history

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering and allows the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing, closing a perceived loophole that allowed a person who instructed someone else to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually commit the crime personally. [1]

A cause of action, in law, is a set of facts sufficient to justify a right to sue to obtain money, property, or the enforcement of a right against another party. The term also refers to the legal theory upon which a plaintiff brings suit. The legal document which carries a claim is often called a 'statement of claim' in English law, or a 'complaint' in U.S. federal practice and in many U.S. states. It can be any communication notifying the party to whom it is addressed of an alleged fault which resulted in damages, often expressed in amount of money the receiving party should pay/reimburse.

The problem of dirty hands concerns whether political leaders or other like actors can ever be justified in committing even gravely immoral actions when "dirtying their hands" in this way is necessary for realizing some important moral or political end, such as the preservation of a community's continued existence or the prevention of imminent societal catastrophe. If political actors can be so justified, a paradox or contradiction seems to emerge because it appears that these actors can, or even must, carry out actions that are, ex hypothesi, morally impermissible. Classic examples of situations in which the problem of dirty hands could arise include ticking time bomb scenarios of the kind popularized by the television series, 24. The problem of dirty hands lies at the point where moral philosophy, political philosophy, and political ethics all intersect.

Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982), is a United States Supreme Court case. It was a 5–4 decision in which the United States Supreme Court applied its capital proportionality principle, to set aside the death penalty for the driver of a getaway car, in a robbery-murder of an elderly Florida couple.

Contents

RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Pub.L.   91–452 , 84  Stat.   922 , enacted October 15, 1970) and is codified at 18 U.S.C. ch. 96 as 18 U.S.C.   §§ 1961 1968. G. Robert Blakey, an adviser to the United States Senate Government Operations Committee, drafted the law under the close supervision of the committee's chairman, Senator John Little McClellan. It was enacted as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, and signed into law by Richard M. Nixon. While its original use in the 1970s was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its later application has been more widespread.

Organized Crime Control Act United States Law

The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, was an Act of Congress sponsored by Democratic Senator John L. McClellan and signed into law by U.S. President Richard Nixon.

An Act of Congress is a statute enacted by the United States Congress. It can either be a Public Law, relating to the general public, or a Private Law, relating to specific institutions or individuals.

<i>United States Statutes at Large</i> An official record of Acts of Congress and concurrent resolutions

The United States Statutes at Large, commonly referred to as the Statutes at Large and abbreviated Stat., are an official record of Acts of Congress and concurrent resolutions passed by the United States Congress. Each act and resolution of Congress is originally published as a slip law, which is classified as either public law or private law (Pvt.L.), and designated and numbered accordingly. At the end of a Congressional session, the statutes enacted during that session are compiled into bound books, known as "session law" publications. The session law publication for U.S. Federal statutes is called the United States Statutes at Large. In that publication, the public laws and private laws are numbered and organized in chronological order. U.S. Federal statutes are published in a three-part process, consisting of slip laws, session laws, and codification.

Beginning in 1972, 33 states adopted state RICO laws to be able to prosecute similar conduct.

Summary

Under RICO, a person who has committed "at least two acts of racketeering activity" drawn from a list of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if such acts are related in one of four specified ways to an "enterprise". [ citation needed ] Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. [ citation needed ] In addition, the racketeer must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of "racketeering activity." [ citation needed ]

Federal crime in the United States Actions made illegal by Congress

In the United States, a federal crime or federal offense is an act that is made illegal by U.S. federal legislation. Prosecution happens at both the federal and the state levels and so a "federal crime" is one that is prosecuted under federal criminal law and not under state criminal law under which most of the crimes committed in the United States are prosecuted.

When the U.S. Attorney decides to indict someone under RICO, they have the option of seeking a pre-trial restraining order or injunction to temporarily seize a defendant's assets and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property, as well as require the defendant to put up a performance bond. This provision was placed in the law because the owners of Mafia-related shell corporations often absconded with the assets. An injunction or performance bond ensures that there is something to seize in the event of a guilty verdict.

Restraining order order used by a court to protect a person or entity

A restraining order or protective order is an order used by a court to protect a person, business, company, establishment, or entity, and the general public, in a situation involving alleged domestic violence, assault, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault. In the United States, every state has some form of domestic violence restraining order law, and many states also have specific restraining order laws for stalking and sexual assault.

A performance bond, also known as a contract bond, is a surety bond issued by an insurance company or a bank to guarantee satisfactory completion of a project by a contractor. The term is also used to denote a collateral deposit of good faith money, intended to secure a futures contract, commonly known as margin.

A mafia is a type of organized crime syndicate whose primary activities are protection racketeering, arbitrating disputes between criminals, and brokering and enforcing illegal agreements and transactions. Mafias often engage in secondary activities such as gambling, loan sharking, drug-trafficking, prostitution, and fraud.

In many cases, the threat of a RICO indictment can force defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges, in part because the seizure of assets would make it difficult to pay a defense attorney. Despite its harsh provisions, a RICO-related charge is considered easy to prove in court since it focuses on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts. [2]

Lawyer legal professional who helps clients and represents them in a court of law

A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney, attorney at law, barrister, barrister-at-law, bar-at-law, canonist, canon lawyer, civil law notary, counsel, counselor, counsellor, solicitor, legal executive, or public servant preparing, interpreting and applying law, but not as a paralegal or charter executive secretary. Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who hire lawyers to perform legal services.

RICO also permits a private individual "damaged in his business or property" by a "racketeer" to file a civil suit. The plaintiff must prove the existence of an "enterprise". The defendant(s) are not the enterprise; in other words, the defendant(s) and the enterprise are not one and the same. [3] There must be one of four specified relationships between the defendant(s) and the enterprise: either the defendant(s) invested the proceeds of the pattern of racketeering activity into the enterprise (18 U.S.C. § 1962(a)); or the defendant(s) acquired or maintained an interest in, or control of, the enterprise through the pattern of racketeering activity (subsection (b)); or the defendant(s) conducted or participated in the affairs of the enterprise "through" the pattern of racketeering activity (subsection (c)); or the defendant(s) conspired to do one of the above (subsection (d)). [4] In essence, the enterprise is either the 'prize,' 'instrument,' 'victim,' or 'perpetrator' of the racketeers. [5] A civil RICO action can be filed in state or federal court. [6]

Federal judiciary of the United States judiciary

The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government. Article III of the Constitution requires the establishment of a Supreme Court and permits the Congress to create other federal courts, and place limitations on their jurisdiction. Article III federal judges are appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate to serve until they resign, are impeached and convicted, retire, or die.

Both the criminal and civil components allow the recovery of treble damages (damages in triple the amount of actual/compensatory damages).

Although its primary intent was to deal with organized crime, Blakey said that Congress never intended it to merely apply to the Mob. He once told Time, "We don't want one set of rules for people whose collars are blue or whose names end in vowels, and another set for those whose collars are white and have Ivy League diplomas." [2]

Initially, prosecutors were skeptical of using RICO, mainly because it was unproven. The RICO Act was first used by the US Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York on September 18, 1979, in the United States v. Scotto. Scotto, who was convicted on charges of racketeering, accepting unlawful labor payments, and income tax evasion, headed the International Longshoreman's Association. During the 1980s and 1990s, federal prosecutors used the law to bring charges against several Mafia figures. The second major success was the Mafia Commission Trial, which resulted in several top leaders of New York City's Five Families getting what amounted to life sentences. By the turn of the century, RICO cases resulted in virtually all of the top leaders of the New York Mafia being sent to prison.

State laws

Beginning in 1972, 33 states, as well as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, adopted state RICO laws to cover additional state offenses under a similar scheme. [7]

RICO predicate offenses

Under the law, the meaning of racketeering activity is set out at 18 U.S.C.   § 1961. As currently amended it includes:

Pattern of racketeering activity requires at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years (excluding any period of imprisonment) after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity. The US Supreme Court has instructed federal courts to follow the continuity-plus-relationship test in order to determine whether the facts of a specific case give rise to an established pattern. The illegal acts comprising a pattern are called "predicate" offenses. [8] Predicate acts are related if they "have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated events." [9] Continuity is both a closed and open ended concept, referring to either a closed period of conduct, or to past conduct that by its nature projects into the future with a threat of repetition.

Application of RICO laws

Although some of the RICO predicate acts are extortion and blackmail, one of the most successful applications of the RICO laws has been the ability to indict and or sanction individuals for their behavior and actions committed against witnesses and victims in alleged retaliation or retribution for cooperating with federal law enforcement or intelligence agencies.

Violations of the RICO laws can be alleged in civil lawsuit cases or for criminal charges. In these instances, charges can be brought against individuals or corporations in retaliation for said individuals or corporations working with law enforcement. Further, charges can also be brought against individuals or corporations who have sued or filed criminal charges against a defendant.

Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) laws can be applied in an attempt to curb alleged abuses of the legal system by individuals or corporations who use the courts as a weapon to retaliate against whistle blowers or victims or to silence another's speech. RICO could be alleged if it can be shown that lawyers or their clients conspired and collaborated to concoct fictitious legal complaints solely in retribution and retaliation for themselves having been brought before the courts.[ citation needed ]

Although the RICO laws may cover drug trafficking crimes in addition to other more traditional RICO predicate acts such as extortion, blackmail, and racketeering, large-scale and organized drug networks are now commonly prosecuted under the Continuing Criminal Enterprise Statute, also known as the "Kingpin Statute". The CCE laws target only traffickers who are responsible for long-term and elaborate conspiracies, whereas the RICO law covers a variety of organized criminal behaviors. [10]

Civil Provisions

The RICO statute contains a provision that allows for the commencement of a civil action by a private party to recover damages sustained as a result of the commission of a RICO predicate offense. [11] [12]

Famous cases

Hells Angels Motorcycle Club

In 1979, the United States Federal Government went after Sonny Barger and several members and associates of the Oakland chapter of the Hells Angels using RICO. In United States vs. Barger, the prosecution team attempted to demonstrate a pattern of behavior to convict Barger and other members of the club of RICO offenses related to guns and illegal drugs. The jury acquitted Barger on the RICO charges with a hung jury on the predicate acts: "There was no proof it was part of club policy, and as much as they tried, the government could not come up with any incriminating minutes from any of our meetings mentioning drugs and guns." [13] [14]

Latin Kings

On August 20, 2006, in Tampa, Florida, most of the state leadership members of street gang the Latin Kings were arrested in connection with RICO conspiracy charges to engage in racketeering and currently await trial. The operation, called "Broken Crown", targeted statewide leadership of the Latin Kings. The raid occurred at the Caribbean American Club. Along with Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, Tampa Police Department, the State Attorney's Office, the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were involved in the operation. [ citation needed ]

Latin Kings in Chicago have been hit in 2009, their nation leader Augustin Zambrano, who was sentenced in 2012 to 60 years on 3 counts.

Gil Dozier

Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Gil Dozier, in office from 1976 to 1980, faced indictment with violations of both the Hobbs and the RICO laws. He was accused of compelling companies doing business with his department to make campaign contributions on his behalf. On September 23, 1980, the Baton Rouge-based United States District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana convicted Dozier of five counts of extortion and racketeering. The sentence of ten years imprisonment, later upgraded to eighteen when other offenses were determined, and a $25,000 fine was suspended pending appeal, and Dozier remained free on bail. [15] He eventually served nearly four years until a presidential commutation freed him in 1986. [16]

Key West, Florida Police Department

Around June 1984, the Key West Police Department located in Monroe County, Florida, was declared a criminal enterprise under the federal RICO statutes after a lengthy United States Department of Justice investigation. Several high-ranking officers of the department, including Deputy Police Chief Raymond Cassamayor, were arrested on federal charges of running a protection racket for illegal cocaine smugglers. [17] At trial, a witness testified he routinely delivered bags of cocaine to the Deputy Chief's office at City Hall. [18]

Michael Milken

On 29 March 1989 American financier Michael Milken was indicted on 98 counts of racketeering and fraud relating to an investigation into an allegation of insider trading and other offenses. Milken was accused of using a wide-ranging network of contacts to manipulate stock and bond prices. It was one of the first occasions that a RICO indictment was brought against an individual with no ties to organized crime. Milken pleaded guilty to six lesser felonies of securities fraud and tax evasion rather than risk spending the rest of his life in prison and ended up serving 22 months in prison. Milken was also ordered banned for life from the securities industry. [19]

On September 7, 1988, Milken's employer, Drexel Burnham Lambert, was threatened with RICO charges respondeat superior , the legal doctrine that corporations are responsible for their employees' crimes. Drexel avoided RICO charges by entering an Alford plea to lesser felonies of stock parking and stock manipulation. In a carefully worded plea, Drexel said it was "not in a position to dispute the allegations" made by the Government. If Drexel had been indicted under RICO statutes, it would have had to post a performance bond of up to $1 billion to avoid having its assets frozen. This would have taken precedence over all of the firm's other obligations—including the loans that provided 96 percent of its capital base. If the bond ever had to be paid, its shareholders would have been practically wiped out. Since banks will not extend credit to a firm indicted under RICO, an indictment would have likely put Drexel out of business. [20] By at least one estimate, a RICO indictment would have destroyed the firm within a month. [21] Years later, Drexel president and CEO Fred Joseph said that Drexel had no choice but to plead guilty because "a financial institution cannot survive a RICO indictment." [22]

Major League Baseball

In 2002, the former minority owners of the Montreal Expos baseball team filed charges under the RICO Act against Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and former Expos owner Jeffrey Loria, claiming that Selig and Loria deliberately conspired to devalue the team for personal benefit in preparation for a move. [23] If found liable, Major League Baseball could have been responsible for up to $300 million in punitive damages. The case lasted two years, successfully stalling the Expos' move to Washington or contraction during that time. It was eventually sent to arbitration, where the arbiters ruled in favor of Major League Baseball, [24] permitting the move to Washington to take place.

Los Angeles Police Department

In April 2000, federal judge William J. Rea in Los Angeles, ruling in one Rampart scandal case, said that the plaintiffs could pursue RICO claims against the LAPD, an unprecedented finding. The idea that a police organization could be characterized as a racketeering enterprise shook up City Hall and further damaged the already-tarnished image of the LAPD. However, in July 2001, US District Judge Gary A. Feess said that the plaintiffs do not have standing to sue the LAPD under RICO because they are alleging personal injuries rather than economic or property damage. [25]

Mohawk Industries

On April 26, 2006, the Supreme Court heard Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Williams, No. 05-465 , 547 U.S. 516 (2006), which concerned what sort of corporations fell under the scope of RICO. Mohawk Industries had allegedly hired illegal aliens, in violation of RICO. The court was asked to decide whether Mohawk Industries, along with recruiting agencies, constitutes an "enterprise" that can be prosecuted under RICO, but in June of that year dismissed the case and remanded it to Court of Appeals. [26]

Gambino crime family

Also in Tampa, on October 16, 2006, four members of the Gambino crime family (Capo Ronald Trucchio, Terry Scaglione, Steven Catallono, and Anthony Mucciarone and associate Kevin McMahon) were tried under RICO statutes, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison.

Lucchese Crime Family

In the mid-1990s, prosecuting attorneys Gregory O'Connell and Charles Rose used RICO charges to bring down the Lucchese family within an 18-month period. Dismantling the Lucchese family had a profound financial impact on previously Mafia held businesses such as construction, garment, and garbage hauling. Here they dominated and extorted money through taxes, dues, and fees. An example of this extortion was through the garbage business. Hauling of garbage from the World Trade Center cost the building owners $1.2 million per year to be removed when the Mafia monopolized the business, as compared to $150,000 per year when competitive bids could be sought. [27]

Chicago Outfit

[ citation needed ]

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Justice's Operation Family Secrets indicted 15 Chicago Outfit (also known as the Outfit, the Chicago Mafia, the Chicago Mob, or the Organization) members and associates under RICO predicates. Five defendants were convicted of RICO violations and other crimes. Six pleaded guilty, two died before trial and one was too sick to be tried.

Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella

A federal grand jury in the Middle District of Pennsylvania handed down a 48-count indictment against former Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella. [28] The judges were charged with RICO after allegedly committing acts of mail and wire fraud, tax evasion, money laundering, and honest services fraud. The judges were accused of taking kickbacks for housing juveniles, that the judges convicted of mostly petty crimes, at a private detention center. The incident was dubbed by many local and national newspapers as the "Kids for cash scandal". [29] On February 18, 2011, a federal jury found Michael Ciavarella guilty of racketeering because of his involvement in accepting illegal payments from Robert Mericle, the developer of PA Child Care, and Attorney Robert Powell, a co-owner of the facility. Ciavarella is facing 38 other counts in federal court. [30]

Scott W. Rothstein

Scott W. Rothstein is a disbarred lawyer and the former managing shareholder, chairman, and chief executive officer of the now-defunct Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm. He was accused of funding his philanthropy, political contributions, law firm salaries, and an extravagant lifestyle with a massive 1.2 billion dollar Ponzi scheme. On December 1, 2009, Rothstein turned himself in to federal authorities and was subsequently arrested on charges related to RICO. [31] Although his arraignment plea was not guilty, Rothstein cooperated with the government and reversed his plea to guilty of five federal crimes on January 27, 2010. Bond was denied by U.S. Magistrate Judge Robin Rosenbaum, who ruled that due to his ability to forge documents, he was considered a flight risk. [32] On June 9, 2010, Rothstein received a 50-year prison sentence after a hearing in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. [33]

AccessHealthSource

Eleven defendants were indicted on RICO charges for allegedly assisting AccessHealthSource, a local health care provider, in obtaining and maintaining lucrative contracts with local and state government entities in the city of El Paso, Texas, "through bribery of and kickbacks to elected officials or himself and others, extortion under color of authority, fraudulent schemes and artifices, false pretenses, promises and representations and deprivation of the right of citizens to the honest services of their elected local officials" (see indictment). [34]

FIFA

Fourteen defendants affiliated with FIFA were indicted under the RICO act on 47 counts for "racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracies, among other offenses, in connection with the defendants' participation in a 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through the corruption of international soccer." The defendants include many current and former high-ranking officers of FIFA and its affiliate CONCACAF. The defendants had allegedly used the enterprise as a front to collect millions of dollars in bribes, which may have influenced Russia and Qatar's winning bids to host the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups, respectively. [35]

Drummond Company

In 2015, the Drummond Company sued attorneys Terrence P. Collingsworth and William R. Scherer, the advocacy group International Rights Advocates (IRAdvocates), and Dutch businessman Albert van Bilderbeek, one of the owners of Llanos Oil, accusing them of violating RICO by alleging that Drummond had worked alongside Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia to murder labor union leaders within proximity of their Colombian coal mines, which Drummond denies. [36]

Connecticut Senator Len Fasano

In 2005, a federal jury ordered Fasano to pay $500,000 under RICO for illegally helping a client hide their assets in a bankruptcy case. [37]

Art Cohen vs. Donald J. Trump

Art Cohen vs. Donald J. Trump was a civil RICO [38] class action suit filed October 18, 2013, [39] accusing Donald Trump of misrepresenting Trump University "to make tens of millions of dollars" but delivering "neither Donald Trump nor a university". [38] The case was being heard in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California in San Diego, No. 3:2013cv02519, [40] by Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. [39] It was scheduled for argument beginning November 28, 2016. [41] However, on November 18 and shortly after Trump won the presidential election, this case and two others were settled for a total of $25 million and without any admission of wrongdoing by Trump. [42] [43]

International equivalents to RICO

The US RICO legislation has other equivalents in the rest of the world. In spite of Interpol having a standardized definition of RICO-like crimes, the interpretation and national implementation in legislation (and enforcement) widely varies. Most nations cooperate with the US on RICO enforcement only where their own related laws are specifically broken, but this is in line with the Interpol protocols for such matters.

By nation, alphabetically:

Without other nations enforcing similar legislation to RICO, many cross border RICO cases would not be possible. In the overall body of RICO cases that went to trial, at least 50% have had some non-US enforcement component to them. The offshoring of money away from the US finance system as part racketeering (and especially money laundering) is typically a major contributing factor to this.

However, other countries have laws that enable the government to seize property with unlawful origins. Colombia and Mexico both have specific laws that define the participation in criminal organizations as a separate crime [47] as well as separate laws that allow the seizure of goods related to these crimes. [48] This latter provides a specific chapter titled "International Cooperation", which instructs Mexican authorities to cooperate with foreign authorities with respect to organized crime assets within Mexico, and provides the framework by which Mexican authorities may politely request the cooperation of foreign authorities with respect to assets located outside of Mexico, in terms of any international instruments they may be party to.

Arguably, this may be construed as allowing the application of the RICO Act in Mexico, provided the relevant international agreements exist among Mexico and countries with RICO or RICO-equivalent provisions.[ citation needed ]

See also

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References

  1. 18 U.S. Code § 1962(c); see also Criminal RICO Prosecutors Manual, elaborating that "A Defendant May Be Liable for a RICO Conspiracy Offense Even if the Defendant Did Not Participate In the Operation or Management of the Enterprise"
  2. 1 2 Sanders, Alain; Painton, Priscilla (August 21, 1989). "Law: Showdown At Gucci". Time . Retrieved September 30, 2009.
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Further reading