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RICO crimes can be particularly challenging to defend against since the government often tries to prove racketeering by linking different federal crimes, even ones that don’t seem connected at first. The potential outcomes and federal prosecutors’ relentless pursuit of convictions can make it feel as if the odds are stacked against you. 

But you don’t have to face this alone. This is where having an experienced RICO defense attorney can make all the difference and give your case the edge you are looking for.

Former prosecutor Mehdi Essmidi knows precisely how the other side thinks and operates. He uses this knowledge to craft strong defenses that anticipate prosecution strategies. He fights aggressively for all his clients, ensuring the best possible outcome. Don’t let RICO charges define your future. Contact The Law Offices of Mehdi Essmidi P.L.L.C. today for a free consultation.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

Racketeering is an organized crime involving a series of illegal activities that often include extortion, money laundering, loan sharking, obstruction of justice, bribery, and fraud. The term is also associated with running a business or scheme (a “racket”) to extort or coerce money from individuals or other businesses illegally.

In simpler terms, it is illegal for anyone to use money gained from racketeering activities or illegal debts in their business operations, especially if that business operates across state or international borders.  

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law providing extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1962, there are four main types of RICO offenses:

Invest in or Acquire Control Through Racketeering Activity

Under RICO, investing in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering is illegal. This provision targets criminal organizations using unlawful methods to infiltrate, control, or influence legitimate businesses or enterprises.

Participate in Enterprise Affairs Through Racketeering

This provision makes it illegal to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in an enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering. This component of RICO focuses on managing an enterprise through repeated criminal behavior.

Conduct or Participate in an Enterprise Through Racketeering Activity

This aspect of RICO targets individuals participating in an enterprise through the commission of multiple racketeering activities. This clause includes high-ranking members of an organization and those who may be indirectly involved in the decision-making or carrying out the enterprise’s affairs.

Conspiracy to Violate Any of the Preceding Provisions

This section refers to plotting or planning to commit any criminal activity covered by the preceding provisions of the law. This aspect of RICO allows for prosecuting individuals who may not have directly committed a racketeering activity but have agreed or conspired with others to do so.

Types of Criminal Activities listed as Racketeering

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was initially designed to target criminal organizations. However, RICO laws have expanded over time to prosecute a broader range of criminal activities, impacting individuals and businesses in New York.

As a result, businesses engaging in two or more of the RICO criminal activities within ten years may be at risk of being prosecuted for RICO violations. Racketeering charges under the RICO Act can encompass the following:

This list is not exhaustive, and the federal government often uses RICO law to prosecute complex criminal cases involving multiple defendants and criminal charges, highlighting the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney.

N.Y. Penal Law § 460 Enterprise Corruption

New York State has its version of the RICO law known as Enterprise Corruption, or “Little RICO.” This state law targets organized crime and corruption within businesses and other organizations.

Under this state law, a person is guilty if involved in at least three criminal activities within a criminal enterprise. These conditions must be met:

  • Two of these activities should be serious crimes (excluding conspiracy)
  • Two of the activities should happen within five years of being charged
  • Each activity should occur within three years of the previous one

Enterprise Corruption is classified as a Class B felony. The penalties in New York can include:

Prison Sentence: Conviction of a Class B felony can result in a sentence of up to 25 years.

Financial Penalties: The law allows for fines up to three times the gross value gained or three times the gross loss caused by the defendant, whichever is greater. This fine is paid as restitution to victims, with any excess going to the state treasury.​

Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Enterprise Corruption carries a mandatory minimum sentence, which means that if convicted, a person must serve a minimum amount of time in prison. The minimum sentence for Enterprise Corruption is generally 1 to 3 years, depending on the case.

Forfeiture of Assets: Conviction can also lead to the forfeiture of assets and proceeds derived from illegal activities.

Enterprise corruption charges carry severe penalties, including prison sentences and substantial fines. Having an experienced attorney who understands federal and state RICO laws is crucial if you’re facing these charges.

New York Organized Crime Control Act (OCCA)

The Organized Crime Control Act is another state law that targets organized crime. This law is similar to the federal RICO law and the state’s Enterprise Corruption law but has unique provisions and penalties, such as sentences of up to 25 years. 

Under OCCA, it’s illegal for anyone to participate in or benefit from a criminal enterprise. This includes participating in at least three criminal acts related to the enterprise within a five-year period.

OCCA charges can be brought in addition to, or instead of, RICO or state Enterprise Corruption charges. This gives prosecutors multiple avenues for pursuing convictions against those they believe are involved, making legal representation a must in such cases. 

Consequences of RICO Convictions

The maximum penalty for a single violation of the RICO Act is a 20-year prison sentence and a fine of $250,000 or twice the value of the illegal profits. 

If certain predefined offenses are involved, the prison sentence may be extended even to life imprisonment. For instance, if the racketeering activity resulted in death, life imprisonment is possible.

A RICO conviction can also lead to forfeiture of any assets gained through racketeering activity, such as homes, vehicles, and savings — anything the government can prove was obtained illegally.

State RICO convictions under New York’s Enterprise Corruption law or OCCA can also carry severe penalties, including lengthy prison sentences and fines.

Common RICO Defenses

Defending against RICO charges requires a deep understanding of the law and a strategic approach. Every case is unique, and the best defense strategy will depend on the charges against you. Nevertheless, some common defenses that may be used in RICO cases include:

Lack of Evidence: The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed the alleged racketeering and that these acts were part of a pattern of illegal activity. A lack of burden of proof could make a strong defense in this case.

No Criminal Enterprise: The prosecution must also prove that racketeering was conducted through an enterprise. This could be a defense if there was no enterprise or you were not associated with it.

No Pattern of Racketeering Activity: Even if you committed one or two acts that could be considered racketeering, this may not be enough to convict you under RICO law. The prosecution must prove a pattern of racketeering activity, which typically means at least two acts of racketeering within a ten-year period.

Statute of Limitations: A five-year statute of limitations exists for many federal crimes, including RICO offenses. The case might be dismissed if the alleged criminal activity occurred more than five years ago. 

Contact Us for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been charged with RICO in New York, the sooner you get an experienced criminal defense attorney on your case, the better your chances of a favorable outcome.

At The Law Offices of Mehdi Essmidi P.L.L.C., we understand what’s at stake and are ready to fight for you against federal prosecutors. We work diligently to defend your rights by reviewing the evidence and identifying potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case to develop a strong defense strategy. Contact us today for a free consultation.