Services that are offered to parts of the public through fraud and false pretenses may be referred to as a racket. Rackets are criminal activities that involve many financial crimes. Racketeering in Massachusetts and in other states are defined under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. RICO states that many types of crimes are racketeering: fraud, bribery, intimidation, and extortion among them. Violent crimes such as drug trafficking and murder also can be related to racketeering.
Racketeering in Massachusetts is typically prosecuted under the RICO Act and can include many criminal actions at the same time. In some cases, the methods used in a criminal organization can expose it to further prosecution for wire and mail fraud, too. Efforts to hide the crimes can also be prosecuted as tax evasion or money laundering. The law was passed by the US Congress in 1970 so it would be easier to fight organized crime. RICO allows for the prosecution of members of a criminal organization whether or not the person was actually engaged in criminal activity. If the prosecutor can prove the criminal organization launders money, then any member of the organization can be convicted of money laundering.
Massachusetts Laws and Penalties
The federal RICO Act requires state and federal prosecutors to prove these four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Conduct: You were working in the illegal organization and were carrying out directives of that organization.
- Enterprise: this is defined as any group that is associated with one another but is not a legal entity. This might include corporations, partnerships and associations, as well as a single person that is engaged in illegal activity.
- Pattern: Federal law mandates there must be two acts of some type of racketeering activity. The acts are required to amount to or pose possibility of continuous criminal activity.
- Racketeering activity: This might include money laundering, extortion, bribery, arson, robbery, fraud or gambling. It is impossible to be convicted for racketeering under RICO unless there was an underlying crime committed.
Penalties for Massachusetts racketeering crimes are issued by a federal judge per the regulations in the federal RICO Act. Racketeering and conspiracy to commit racketeering are first degree felonies. You may be sentenced to as many as 30 years in prison and receive a fine of $25,000 for one racketeering charge. Also, you could have to pay restitution to your victims. Keep in mind the assets seized by the US government can amount to much more money than what was made in the criminal activity.
For example, if you defraud several customers in one division of a large corporation, the government can force you to forfeit all of your stockholdings in the entire company, whether the dollar amount of the holding was either small or large in proportion to the losses caused by the fraud. In one case that went before the US Supreme Court, the owner of an adult bookstore was convicted under RICO for selling several obscene books, but he had to forfeit his entire store to the US government, including a large number of books that were not obscene.
Racketeering RICO Defenses
The RICO Act was originally written to ensnare all types of gangsters, companies and entities that were used to launder money from their illegal activities. That is why the RICO Act was case a very broad, open ended way. But over time, many prosecutors learned to use the Act to bring criminal charges against all types of people and businesses, many of whom may have had nothing to do with any criminal activity.
There are many good defenses to racketeering RICO crimes in Massachusetts. For example, it is possible for the RICO person to be indistinguishable from the criminal organization. Also, the racketeering activities may lack continuity. Further, the indictment may not not feature sentencing factors that are in excess of the maximum allowed per the statute. Further, the RICO complaint can lack particularity if wire or mail fraud crimes were alleged.
A criminal defense attorney may be able to show there was not enough evidence that you were working in the illegal organization. Some police officers may have acted illegally when you were arrested, as well. This can result in case dismissal. Last, you may be able to show you did not have knowledge that illegal actions were occurring in the organization.
Statute of Limitations
Under Title 18, section 3282 of the US Code, no person can be prosecuted for RICO unless it occurs within five years of the date the crime was allegedly committed.
Racketeering RICO Cases
- MS-13 Gang Members Convicted for Racketeering and Murder — Three members of the MS-13 gang were convicted for racketeering and murder last month. The three men from Honduras were found guilty of committing murder as part of a racketeering conspiracy. The murder charge was related to the killing of a 29 year old in Chelsea in 2014. According to testimony, one of the men used a gun belonging to the another man to fatally shoot the victim.
- Brian Joyce May Have Used Attorney to Hide Alleged Corruption — Massachusetts state prosecutors in the corruption and racketeering case against former state senator Brian Joyce convinced a grand jury that he probably used his attorney to hide criminal behavior. The US district judge on the case said the indictment of Joyce provides evidence that Joyce instructed and retained his attorney with intent to commit or foster the racketeering crime.
- Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Role in Teen’s Killing in Boston — A member of the deadly MS-13 criminal gang pleaded guilty last month to his role in the murder of a 15 year old boy from Boston who was lured to his death by a fake posting on a Facebook page.
- Lowell Joins Other Massachusetts Cities in Suing Opioid Firms — Lowell has joined other Massachusetts cities recently to bring federal lawsuits against opioid distributors and manufacturers for their misleading promotions and aggressive sales of the drugs. The lawsuits allege the companies have defrauded the public and are engaged in a racketeering scheme that is against federal law.