Racketeering & White Collar Crimes in Philadelphia
Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Can Defend Your Rights
RICO cases may be prosecuted under both federal and state laws, and may include both civil and criminal penalties. In the civil context, an organization accused of violating the RICO laws not only is subject to fines and penalties from the government, but also is subject to what is referred to as a private cause of action. A private cause of action means individual citizens can bring a lawsuit alleging that the organization violated the RICO laws and recover money damages.
The original intention of the law was to help prosecute organized crime, closing perceived loopholes in the law. For instance, before passage of the RICO statute, many organized crime leaders believed that ordering a subordinate to commit a crime immunized or protected them from prosecution.
Contact us today to get more information about how our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers can help you.
About RICO Laws
The RICO laws essentially make the leaders of the organization liable for all illegal actions taken by the organization at their direction. In the 1980s and 1990s, this resulted in several successful prosecutions of major organized crime leaders in the Mafia. Besides the Mafia, the RICO Act has been famously used to prosecute motorcycle gangs, Catholic Archdioceses, police departments, Major League Baseball, corrupt financial moguls, among others.
RICO laws can result in high penalties and sentences upon conviction. In addition, the federal RICO law allows federal prosecutors to seek a preliminary injunction or restraining order before they bring an indictment to freeze the assets of the target of their investigation.
About RICO Prosecutions
RICO prosecutions are among the most serious and complex cases imaginable. They involve the potential for long sentences, high fines, and they often involve many witnesses with thousands of pages of discovery.
Our Philadelphia criminal defense attorneys, with their strong analytical backgrounds, are uniquely suited to defending RICO cases. They have the unusual balance of being able to represent defendants vigorously in the courtroom and to pull the government's case apart in a way that works to their advantage. This skill set also makes our attorneys well-suited to assess whether an individual is the victim of a corrupt organization and represent them in bringing a suit on their behalf.
We have experience representing individuals in state and federal RICO cases:
- Alleged corrupt organization designed to commit wide-spread insurance fraud
- Successfully negotiated reduction in charges for a business owner accused of running a corrupt organization designed to defraud insurance companies
- Significantly reduced sentence, 30 days in prison, on a major drug distribution RICO case that would have otherwise resulted in a minimum of several years in prison
What Is a RICO Predicate?
You will sometimes hear, in the context of a federal prosecution, that the government needs a "RICO predicate" before they bring an indictment. A RICO predicate means that the organization needs to be engaged in "racketeering activity".
Racketeering activity includes:
- Illegal gambling
- Dealing drugs
- Embezzling union funds
- Bankruptcy or securities fraud
- Criminal copyright infringement
- Money laundering
- Running a for-profit organization designed to bring people into the United States illegally
There are some other lesser-used "RICO predicates" and what qualifies or doesn't qualify is fairly complicated. It is essential that you speak to a lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you are the target of a RICO investigation. Your lawyer will be able to assess your risk based on the activities that you or anyone connected to you has engaged in.
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What Is Needed to Prove Guilt of Federal RICO?
The government is seeking to prove a pattern of corrupt behavior rather than particular acts, though the government must prove predicate acts to establish a RICO charge. The government needs to prove a pattern of racketeering activity, which means a violation of one of the above listed offenses known as "RICO predicates" and a second act within ten years of the first.
The government also needs to prove that the two predicates are connected. This can be a difficult concept, but the U.S. Supreme Court has tried to create a test for the courts to follow and stated that the two acts are related if they "have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission, or otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated events."
What About State Court?
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to receive income from a pattern of racketeering activity at its most basic level. As stated above, these charges can carry significant penalties beyond the penalties associated with the underlying crime alleged.
Arrange to get a case evaluation from our team of skilled Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers.