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Rico Charge Meaning (Explained: All You Need To Know)

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What Is A Rico Charge

A Rico Charge refers to an accusation that is filed against someone pursuant to the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) aimed at taking down organized crime organizations.

Further to the RICO Act, prosecutors are better equipped to prosecute different members of an organized crime organization.

Before the adoption of the RICO Act, prosecutors had the challenge of having to individually prosecute members of a criminal organization without having the ability to act against the entire organization.

Federal Statute

A Rico charge is filed under a federal statute called the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was adopted in 1970 to fight organized crime.

Under the Rico Act, a person engaged in organized crime can face criminal prosecution or civil penalties.

There are many types of activities that are covered by the RICO Act.

Covered Crimes

A RICO charge can be filed against anyone engaging in racketeering activities such as:

  • Arson
  • Bribery 
  • Counterfeiting 
  • Embezzlement 
  • Extortion
  • Gambling
  • Money laundering 
  • Wire fraud
  • Witness tampering
  • Kidnapping
  • Homicide
  • Robbery 
  • Mail fraud
  • Drug trafficking 
  • Slavery 

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Rico Convictions

A prosecutor can successfully convict someone under the Rico Act by proving that the defendant was engaged in two or more instances of racketeering activity and that the defendant acted for a criminal enterprise.

Rico Penalties

Under the Rico Act, a person convicted of a crime can face up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

It’s also possible for a person to be sentenced to life in jail if the charge is directly related to a racketeering activity having a penalty of life imprisonment such as homicide or drug trafficking.

In addition to the penalties, the defendant will also be required to forfeit the financial interest or property he or she acquired illegally.

The defendant’s property will also be seized.

Criminal Rico Charge

A person violating Rico can be criminally charged.

Anyone engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity connected to a criminal organization can be found guilty of a Rico crime.

There are 35 offenses that can potentially constitute racketeering (known as “predicate” offenses).

There must be at least two predicate crimes within ten years to allow a prosecutor to bring Rico charges against someone.

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Civil Rico Charge

What’s interesting with Rico is that anyone can bring a civil lawsuit against someone if they have suffered injuries caused by a RICO violation.

If the plaintiff wins, they are eligible to receive treble damages.

Over the years, the courts in the United States have defined the requirements for filing a civil Rico lawsuit:

  • The defendant must have committed an act provided for under RICO
  • There must be a pattern of activity 
  • The lawsuit must be filed within the statute of limitations

The statute of limitations is four years and starts tolling from the moment the victim discovers his or her damages.

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Rico Charge Examples

Let’s look at a few examples of activities that may lead to Rico charges.

Although initially the Rico Act was adopted to fight organized crime, Rico charges are not just limited to try mobsters and the mafia.

The broadness of the Rico Act allows the prosecutors to bring Rico charges against anyone whose conduct satisfies the requirements of the statute.

Typically, Rico charges can be filed for activities such as:

  • Using illegal funds to operate a business
  • Illegally acquiring an interest in an organization
  • Illegally using an enterprise to collect debt
  • Collection of unlawful debt 
  • Extortion activities
  • Acts of mail fraud
  • Murder 
  • Murder for hire 
  • Trafficking of obscene material 
  • Larceny crimes
  • Crimes involving people 
  • Money-related crimes
  • Criminal copyright infringement
  • Obstruction of justice 
  • Distribution of controlled substances 
  • Robbery 
  • Theft 

Over the years, over 35 different types of crimes can now be covered by Rico for which someone can be charged.

Under the Rico Act, it is illegal to disrupt foreign or interstate commerce in any way, either directly or indirectly.

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Rico Charge FAQ

What is racketeering?

Racketeering refers to an organized scheme of criminal conduct as opposed to a single crime or one criminal act.

Racketeering generally refers to the criminal ventures engaged in by organized crime organizations, the mob, and the mafia.

What are RICO charges?

A RICO charge is essentially a racketeering charge intended to fight criminal organizations.

Specific types of criminal activities are covered under RICO, such as counterfeiting, money laundering, gambling, prostitution, and other crimes.

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Why bring RICO charges?

The main objective behind RICO charges is to prosecute members of organized crime.

The idea is to be able to prosecute those who are directly involved in committing the crime along with higher-ranking members of the organized crime enterprise who may be more difficult to pin down.

How can you violate the RICO Act?

You can violate the RICO Act in four ways:

  • You invest or spend money earned from a criminal racketeering enterprise 
  • You acquire or control an enterprise through racketeering
  • You participate directly or indirectly in racketeering activities or collection of unlawful debt
  • You conspire directly or indirectly to commit certain criminal acts as part of a criminal enterprise 


So there you have it folks!

What is a Rico charge?

A Rico Charge is when the prosecutor charges someone under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in the United States.

The Rico Act is a federal statute allowing prosecutors to file civil and criminal charges against members of criminal organizations.

Racketeering refers to an organized activity or effort intended to acquire a benefit illegally, it’s not necessarily a single crime or a single act.

Typically, racketeering activities affect commerce, take place at an organizational level, and involve a scheme or pattern of activities.

When a person is found to be engaged in racketeering activities, a Rico charge can be filed against that person to effectively try that person under the Rico Act.

Now that you know what a Rico Charge is and how it works, good luck with your research!

What is racketeering 
What is embezzlement 
What is money laundering 
What is a criminal enterprise 
What is RICO Act

Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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