Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a powerful tool that the government often misuses to over-prosecute individuals suspected of organized criminal activity. A skilled RICO defense attorney can help you.
Michigan and the Federal Government Prosecute RICO Charges
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law in the United States enacted in 1970 as part of the Organized Crime Control Act. RICO laws aim to combat organized crime by targeting the leaders of criminal organizations who commit or oversee the commission of multiple criminal offenses in furtherance of their enterprise. Michigan’s RICO statute prohibits participating or membership in a “criminal enterprise.” The prosecutors handling RICO and criminal enterprise cases are the most aggressive and experienced government attorneys. Few RICO defense attorneys have the expertise, skill, and experience to provide their clients with a robust, zealous, and thorough defense.
What is RICO or a Criminal Enterprise?
Under RICO, it is illegal for any person to participate in the affairs of an enterprise engaged in local, interstate, or foreign commerce through a pattern of racketeering activity. Racketeering activity includes a wide range of criminal offenses, such as bribery, extortion, money laundering, and mail and wire fraud. Similarly, a Michigan “criminal enterprise” is an individual, a partnership, a company, a governmental unit, or a group of people participating in organized criminal activity. The RICO defense attorneys with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have defended clients against these allegations for decades and have a winning track record in state and federal court.
The Government Must Prove a Pattern of Criminal Activity
A pattern of racketeering activity requires at least two related crimes within 10 years, and these acts must be related to the enterprise. The term “enterprise” can refer to any individual, partnership, corporation, or other legal entity, including legitimate businesses allegedly used as a front for criminal activity. Generally, the government must prove that the defendant did or conspired to do one of the following:
- Conducted legal or illegal business affairs through racketeering.
- Used proceeds from racketeering to operate a legal or illegal business or organization.
- Used funds attained from collecting unlawful debt to run a business or organization.
- Acquired an interest in a company or other assets through racketeering.
How can an experienced, aggressive RICO defense attorney help?
The defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. will attack every aspect of the government’s case in an effort to increase their bargaining power and decrease the government’s leverage. For example, the prosecutor might agree to dismiss charges or agree to a lenient plea bargain if the defense can cast credible doubt on the illegality of the business or activities, the source of the funds, the origin of the business’s assets, or whether there is an identifiable criminal enterprise.
Racketeering (RICO) Penalties
Under Michigan law, a RICO or criminal enterprise conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines. Under federal law, the potential penalty is more complicated. The statutory maximum sentence for racketeering in federal court is 20 years and up to $250,000; however, the statutes permit the maximum to increase if the underlying crime has a sentence exceeding 20 years. For example, if the racketeering activity involves murder, a crime punishable by up to life in prison, the maximum for RICO increases to life in prison. In addition to attacking the government’s evidence, a savvy RICO defense attorney will develop a compelling argument for a reduced sentence if there is a conviction.
How Can a Defense Attorney Help with RICO and Criminal Enterprise Penalties
Violations of RICO carry significant penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of assets obtained through criminal activity. In addition, RICO allows lawsuits by private parties to recover damages against the enterprise. The government prosecutes individuals and organizations believed to engage in organized crimes, including drug cartels, organized crime syndicates, and corrupt corporate entities.
Unfortunately, federal and state prosecutors are prone to charge RICO and criminal enterprise charges when the evidence of organized crime is weak. The government relies on these over-reaching statutes to bring heavy-handed charges, hoping to frighten and coerce defendants into plea deals, massive fines, and lengthy prison sentences.
RICO laws have recently been expanded far beyond their initial purpose to pursue many sorts of criminal activity that do not entail what you might generally associate with organized crime. The skilled RICO defense attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. can defend you if you face a state or federal RICO prosecution. We offer free consultations and the strongest available advocacy.
A RICO Defense Attorney’s Perspective on Racketeering
Under Michigan law, racketeering is an offense committed for financial gain. The law incorporates a broad range of activities prohibited under federal law, Michigan law, and law from other states. This law prohibits a pattern of ongoing activity involving these offenses. These are the underlying offenses that are the necessary building blocks supporting the pattern of activity. A RICO defense attorney will attempt, if possible, to cast doubt on the existence of the underlying criminal activity. The offenses include:
- Tobacco and cigarette taxes crimes
- Environmental offenses regarding hazardous waste disposal
- Controlled substances felonies
- Welfare, Unemployment, Healthcare, and Medicaid fraud
- Felonies concerning the business of gaming and gambling
- Securities and Tax Fraud
- Display or dissemination of obscene materials (CSAM and child pornography) to minors
- Arson and Malicious Destruction of Property
- Bank Fraud (concerning bank bonds, notes, bills, and property)
- Bribery and Extortion
- Election Fraud
- Home Invasion or Breaking and Entering
- Jury tampering and Obstruction of Justice
- Sexually abusive material or activity related to children (Distribution or Production of Child Pornography)
- Computer Offenses and Internet Crimes
- Financial transaction devices or credit card offenses
- Organized Retail Fraud (shoplifting)
- Bombs, explosives, and hazardous material offenses
- Mail and Wire Fraud
- Felonies involving False Pretenses
- Dangerous weapons or firearm crimes (such as trafficking in firearms)
- Counterfeiting and Forgery
- Crimes Related to access devices, food stamps, or benefits coupons
- Crimes concerning gambling and bookmaking
- Murder for hire and other violent crimes
- Horse or dog racing
- Money laundering
- Perjury or suborning perjury
- Prostitution or Sex Trafficking
- Human trafficking
- Robbery and Car Jacking
- Stolen, embezzled, or converted property or funds
- Illegal sale, delivery, or importation of alcohol
- Violations of the Identity Theft Protection Act or other Identity Theft crimes
What is a racketeering “enterprise” under Michigan law?
An “enterprise” includes an individual, partnership, corporation, or group of associated persons. This consists of both legal and illegal enterprises. Building a strong defense against these allegations is essential for a RICO defense attorney’s client. If the government cannot prove the existence of an “enterprise,” the defendant must be acquitted.
What is a pattern of activity for an ongoing criminal enterprise?
A “pattern of racketeering activity” is no less than two related instances of racketeering where the following applies:
- A common purpose, participants, victims, scheme, pattern, or method.
- Acts that perpetuate or threaten to perpetuate ongoing criminal activity.
- At least one act must have occurred in Michigan on or after the effective date of this law, and the last incident committed within ten years after any prior act (this excludes any prison time served for racketeering).
Someone associated with a criminal enterprise cannot knowingly participate directly or indirectly through “a pattern of racketeering activity.” Suppose the RICO defense attorney can cast doubt on their client’s participation or knowledge of the racketeering activity. In that case, they can negotiate a favorable resolution or argue for an acquittal at trial.
Top State and Federal RICO Defense Attorneys
The defense lawyers with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. have successfully defended clients accused of organized crime on state and federal levels. We protect and defend our clients in various ways, beginning with a forceful challenge to RICO and criminal enterprise laws. We have a significant advantage in cutting-edge arguments that can often completely demolish Michigan prosecutors’ cases because they infrequently prosecute cases involving illicit enterprises. Although federal prosecutors tend to be far more experienced, a skilled defense attorney can attack a RICO prosecution on multiple levels, weakening the government’s case and increasing the odds of a favorable outcome. Additionally, since our RICO defense attorneys have extensive experience defending massive RICO cases, taking on a RICO case does not scare us in the least. We are prepared to take your case and win it because these situations call for Michigan’s best criminal enterprise defense attorneys.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.