Racketeering is a very serious crime that has significant consequences on the life of someone accused of it. Essentially, racketeering almost always goes hand in hand with organized crime. Usually, some illegal activity is included in it that is part of a larger, wider, more elaborate enterprise. While Ohio has a law that defines ‘corrupt’ activities, they follow the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in terms of bringing these types of cases to justice.
Laws and Penalties
Ohio defines crimes that can be construed as racketeering under ORC 2923.31 – Corrupt activity definitions. However, trials are held following the 18 U.S. Code Chapter 96 – Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. This was put into place to penalize anyone who takes part in racketeering efforts.
Before RICO, there was the Organized Control Act of 1970, which is technically still in force. Both aimed to completely eliminate illicit manufacturing in this country, across all states. The Organized Control Act looked at bootlegging in particular.
In most cases, someone who is charged with racketeering will also be charged with a range of other criminal offenses, particularly embezzlement, conspiracy, fraud, and bribery. Most of the time, these crimes are closely related. This does, however, make sentencing and trials more complex, as a state like Ohio may need to use the RICO Act for certain parts of the case, and other, local acts for the other criminal elements.
Under the RICO Act, there are a number of possible punishments. Imprisonment is common and should not exceed 20 years. Additionally, any property that the accused obtained using illicit means has to be forfeited. Fines are generally also imposed of up to no more than twice the amount they earned through illegal activities. The issue of fines is of particular interest in Ohio, where it was determined that, in a case of racketeering through an organization, fines should be applied to the individuals in the case, and not to the entire organization.
Individuals and companies that were harmed through racketeering are also able to start civil proceedings under the RICO Act. This means that they have to prove that the criminal enterprise existed, and that the defendants are related to this. Injured parties can recover up to three times the value of the damages they suffered. For instance, those who lost $1,000 through racketeering can recover $3,000.
The most frequent defense against racketeering charges is the absence of intent to engage in a criminal act. For something to be classed as a crime, intent usually has to be demonstrated. Racketeering often involves huge sums of money, and plenty of people who deal with this money will not be aware of the fact that they are committing a crime, as they don’t know where the money came from. As such, they cannot be charged with racketeering.
Duress may also be used. This means that if it can be demonstrated that the defendants only engaged in the criminal act because they were afraid someone from the organization would harm them or their families, then a conviction cannot be made. Accountants often use this defense, being able to demonstrate that if they were to refuse to participate in these actions, either they or their families would have come to harm.
Finally, they may try a defense of insufficient evidence because a prosecutor has to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. However, insufficient evidence defenses are very difficult and only the most highly skilled attorneys will choose to take this on, if they are very sure of the validity of their argument.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations in RICO cases is federally determined. It states that, so long as the case is a non-capital offense, the statute of limitations on these cases is five years. However, if the defendant is out of the country or the state for a lengthy period time, the statute of limitations has to be tolled. As such, it is possible for someone to face criminal and civil accusations for a much longer period of time after the statute would normally have run out. The clock of the statute of limitations starts ticking from the date the crime itself was committed.
Ohio Racketeering Cases
- Jury convicts columbus gang members of racketeering and murder
- Racketeering lawsuit exposing nationwide vote rigging in DNC primaries could derail Clinton
- Racketeering law poorly written but still enforceable, Ohio Supreme Court rules
- In RICO cases, threshold amount for corrupt activity applies to each individual not to criminal enterprise
- Ohio recycler faces racketeering charges