Tallahassee Racketeering/RICO Attorney
In the early 1970s, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Commonly known today as the RICO statute, the law was originally intended to give prosecutors powerful legal tools to go after organized crime syndicates. Many states, including Florida, subsequently adopted their own anti-racketeering laws. Today, RICO laws are often used to target a variety of suspected white collar criminal offenses.
Racketeering is one of the most complex areas of criminal law. It is not the type of charge a person can defend themselves against in court. The experienced Tallahassee racketeering & RICO attorneys at Luke Newman, P.A., know how to investigate and defend against these types of charges.
What Is “Racketeering”?
The federal RICO statute declares it 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.”
Essentially, RICO makes it a crime to participate in an organization that engages in unlawful activities. This does not necessarily mean the organization itself is illegal (e.g., the Mafia). An otherwise legal organization, such as a corporation, can be found guilty of engaging in RICO violations as well.
Florida’s RICO law states a person commits racketeering if they engage in a pattern of at least 2 related illegal acts within a 10-year period. This does not just mean the “mastermind” or head of the criminal enterprise. Anyone who was employed by–or associated with–the racketeering enterprise may be charged.
It is also important to note that not all racketeering-related crimes are violent. Many are white collar offenses like money laundering, fraud, embezzlement, gambling, and forgery. Of course, a RICO enterprise may also be charged with violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, or arson. But regardless of whether or not violence is involved, a person convicted of RICO and racketeering violations faces some of the harshest criminal sanctions permitted by law. Florida classifies racketeering as a first-degree felony. This means anyone convicted of participating in the racketeering enterprise faces a possible 30-year prison sentence. Beyond jail time, prosecutors may also seek forfeiture of any assets believed to be connected to the illegal enterprise.
Defending Against a RICO Charge
While the RICO laws may be broad, they are not without limits. Prosecutors still need to prove–beyond a reasonable doubt–that a criminal enterprise existed in the first place. They also need to show the defendant’s employment or association with that enterprise. Finally, they must prove the defendant knowingly participated in the enterprise’s illegal acts.
Prosecutors will often threaten RICO indictments to get potential witnesses to cooperate. The government is often ill prepared to actually make their case in court. That is why it is crucial to mount a strong defense from the outset. Your first step is to hire an attorney who understands how to investigate and fight a racketeering charge.
If you need legal advice or representation in connection with a potential RICO matter, contact Luke Newman, P.A., today to schedule a consultation.