Business Law Paper
18 November 2010
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as the RICO Act, was enacted by the Organized Crime Control Act on October 15, 1970. The RICO Act took many years to be passed, and took a few years for the Department of Justice to gear up for the enforcement of the statute. Civil RICO claims did not become common until sometime in the 1980's. The RICO Act was passed by the United States Congress to allow persons who are financially injured by criminal activity to seek redress through the United State court system, whether it would be through state or federal courts. It was "an effort to curb the entry of organized crime into the legitimate business world" (Business Law textbook 192). Additionally, this statute makes it a federal crime to "(1) use income obtained from racketeering activity to purchase any interest in an enterprise, (2) acquire or maintain an interest in an enterprise through racketeering activity, (3) conduct or participate in the affairs of an enterprise through racketeering activity, or (4) conspire to do any of the preceding activities" (Business Law textbook 192-193). The RICO statute has been applied in cases that don't have anything to do with organized crime, for example, in the Major League Baseball and Catholic Sex Abuse cases. More often than not, RICO is actually used against white-collar crimes.
Under this statute, anyone who is a member of an enterprise and has committed two of thirty five crimes within a ten year span (twenty seven of these being federal and eight being state) can be charged with racketeering. The punishments are very severe for a violation of the statute, including a fine of up to $25,000 per violation, and a possible 20 years in prison. Additionally, illegal gains earned through illegal activities must be forfeited, and the guilty party could be subject to civil suits as well. Racketeering activity can include state violations such as gambling, extortion and robbery; federal violations such as embezzlement, fraud and money laundering; and also include matters such as bankruptcy fraud, drug trafficking, aiding illegal aliens for financial gain, and acts of terrorism.