Racketeering RICO Laws, Charges & Statute of Limitations

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Federal racketeering laws arose from the legal difficulty of prosecuting the leaders of organized criminal cartels. Under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, also known as 18 USC §§ 1961-1968, legislators sought to address loopholes that had allowed some criminal bosses to avoid prosecution for activities by avoiding association with criminal acts their accomplices had apparently been ordered to do. Today, RICO provides the backbone of federal prosecution related to racketeering.

Racketeering Laws

RICO defines a wide variety of criminal activities based upon an organization’s status as one that derives income from criminal offenses. Individuals cannot acquire, establish, or operate any enterprise with illegally derived income, acquire or maintain any interest or control of any enterprise through illegal activity, or use any enterprise to commit illegal acts. These laws help federal prosecutors to pursue charges against high-level organized crime figures who might otherwise be able to distance themselves from a variety of charges through an appearance of plausible deniability.

Racketeering Crimes & Charges

Although state laws may prohibit individual aspects of criminal enterprises, federal RICO laws provide the legal force to “bust up” criminal empires that stretch across multiple jurisdictions. Extortion, blackmail, and bribery are three common federal offenses that can cause otherwise lawful organizations to fall under the provision of the RICO Act. Criminal front organizations are frequently subject to scrutiny and eventual prosecution on the basis of RICO.

  • Any enterprise that derives any of its income through illegal activity may be subject to additional penalties under RICO. These can include such things as gambling houses, brothels, and so on.
  • Otherwise legal organizations that derive some portion of their income through illicit activities may be subject to RICO. For example, a bar with a valid liquor license that provides the cover for illegal gambling or for the planning of unlawful activities may be subject.
  • Organizations that are used for the purposes of “laundering” money, even if the majority of participants are unaware of the organization’s criminal connections, may fall under the dominion of RICO. For example, general contractors, waste removal companies and other firms that have sometimes been used to launder “dirty” money may be shut down, have assets seized, or be liquidated in favor of lawful owners.

Racketeering Punishment

RICO legislation provides for numerous punishments. Imprisonment for RICO-related activities is not to exceed twenty years, and the individual faces forfeiture of property that was obtained through illicit means. An individual fined under RICO may generally not be fined more than twice the proceeds from their illicit activities.

Racketeering Sentencing Guidelines

Racketeering sentencing guidelines are extremely strict. Although general racketeering statutes provide for maximum imprisonment of up to twenty years, a life sentence is possible if any of the underlying racketeering activities provide for a life sentence. Likewise, in the event that property obtained through illicit means cannot be located, courts can order the forfeiture of any of the defendant’s other properties.

Racketeering Statute of Limitations

Title 18 of the United States Code, section 3282, provides that no person may be brought to trial, prosecuted or punished for any non-capital offense unless they are indicted or information is filed within five years. It is important to note that some criminal activities that might be connected with racketeering may not be protected by the short statute of limitations provided by Title 18.

Racketeering Cases

Racketeering cases have traditionally been at the heart of breaking down some of the longest-running and most powerful criminal organizations. By criminalizing the flow of income that sustains such organizations, authorities have been able to make high-level arrests and bring cases successfully to court. RICO prosecution is an active part of federal law enforcement and “gang busting” to this very day:

  • In August of 2013, a jury found notorious mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger guilty of charges including murder and racketeering. As a leader in Boston organized crime, Bulger’s activities spanned several decades. (Bulger Found Guilty: CNN)
  • Alleged members of one of the most visible violent gangs in the Chicagoland area, the Hobos, became the targets of federal racketeering and other charges in September 2013 as pressure mounted on prosecutors to crack down on organized crime in the area. (Huffington Post: Alleged Members Face Charges After 6-Year Investigation)

Quick Links & References

Racketeering Laws by State

In most states that have their own statutes covering racketeering, defendants face what is known as a “triple threat”. This means that they may face criminal charges, civil charges, and forfeiture.

AlabamaHawaiiMassachusettsNew MexicoSouth Dakota
AlaskaIdahoMichiganNew YorkTennessee
ArizonaIllinoisMinnesotaNorth CarolinaTexas
ArkansasIndianaMississippiNorth DakotaUtah
CaliforniaIowaMissouriOhioVermont
ColoradoKansasMontanaOklahomaVirginia
ConnecticutKentuckyNebraskaOregonWashington
DelawareLouisianaNevadaPennsylvaniaWest Virginia
FloridaMaineNew HampshireRhode IslandWisconsin
GeorgiaMarylandNew JerseySouth CarolinaWyoming

Alabama
Alabama does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Alaska

Alaska does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the specific illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Arizona

Under Arizona Revised Statutes Section 13-2312 – Illegal control of an enterprise, racketeering is a class 3 felony. Punishment is two to 8.75 years imprisonment.

Arkansas

Arkansas does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at  the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

California

Under:

  • California Penal Code Section 186.2 (defining criminal profiteering activity)
  • California Penal Code Section 186.3 (allowing forfeiture of property or proceeds derived from criminal profiteering)

Penalties depend on how much financial profits were made, as well as on the types of criminal associations or enterprises. The exact nature of the criminal activities will also influence the penalties. The aim of the legislature is to deter and punish, particularly through using forfeiture laws. This means the property of the convicted person is seized by the state. Additionally, other criminal charges may be brought, often relating to money laundering.

Colorado

Under Colorado Organized Crime Act, CRS 18-17-104, racketeering is a class 2 felony, punishable by up to 24 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines.

Connecticut

Under CHAPTER 949c*, CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS AND RACKETEERING ACTIVITY ACT (CORA), Sec. 53-397. Penalty. Forfeiture of property. Disposition of seized property. Appointment of receiver, penalties for racketeering are focused fully on forfeiture of property.

Delaware

Under TITLE 11, Crimes and Criminal Procedure, Delaware Criminal Code, CHAPTER 15. ORGANIZED CRIME AND RACKETEERING, the penalties are indicated:

  • Violation is a class B felony. Imprisonment and fine of at least $25,000
  • Forfeiture of all property obtained through the proceeds of racketeering
  • Restitution of no more than three times the loss caused or value gained

Florida

Under Florida Statutes Title XLVI. Section 895.03, penalties are indicated:

  • 1st degree felony. Up to 30 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to $10,000.
  • A fine of treble the damages

Georgia

Under Georgia Code Title 16-14-1 – 14-4 (Georgia RICO Act), penalties are indicated:

  • Felony offense. Five to 20 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to $25,000 or treble the value gained or loss caused for each count
  • Civil remedies
  • Forfeiture

Hawaii

Under

  • Hawaii Revised Statutes Division 5. Crimes and Criminal Proceedings Section 842-2, Ownership or operation of business by certain persons prohibited
  • Hawaii Revised Statutes Division 5. Crimes and Criminal Proceedings Section 842-10

Penalties include forfeiture.

Idaho

Under:

  • 2016 Idaho Statutes, Title 18 – CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS, Chapter 78 – RACKETEERING ACT, Section 18-7804 – PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES – PENALTIES
  • 2016 Idaho Statutes, Title 18 – CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS, Chapter 78 – RACKETEERING ACT, Section 18-7805 – RACKETEERING — CIVIL REMEDIES

Penalties include:

  • Fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to 14 years imprisonment in state penitentiary
  • Restitution
  • Forfeiture
  • Restitution of three times the gain or loss caused

Illinois

Under Illinois Statutes Chapter 720 Section 5/33-G-1, et seq., penalties include:

For participation:

  • Class X felony. Between seven and 30 years imprisonment or the sentence related to the underlying activity, whichever is higher
  • Restitution
  • Criminal fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount gained or loss caused, whichever is greater

For acquiring interests:

  • Class X felony. Between six and 30 years imprisonment
  • Restitution
  • Criminal fine of up to $250,000 or twice the amount gained or loss caused, whichever is greater

Enhanced sentence of 25 years to life if unlawful death occurred as a result of the racketeering.

Indiana

Under Indiana Code Title 35. Criminal Law and Procedure Section 35-45-6-2

2011 Indiana Code, TITLE 34. CIVIL LAW AND PROCEDURE, ARTICLE 24. CIVIL PROCEEDINGS RELATED TO CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES, CHAPTER 2. CIVIL REMEDIES FOR RACKETEERING ACTIVITY

Penalties are:

  • Corrupt business influence. Level 5 felony. Between one and six years imprisonment, with a three year advisory sentence.
  • Injunctive relief of the business
  • Forfeiture
  • Seizure of property
  • Civil actions for recovery

Iowa

Under Iowa Code section 706A et. seq., the Iowa Ongoing Criminal Conduct Act (IOCCA), racketeering is a class B felony, leading to up to 25 years imprisonment. Additionally, civil penalties can be imposed.

Kansas
Under 2015 Kansas Statutes, Chapter 21 CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS, Article 63 CRIMES AGAINST THE PUBLIC SAFETY, 21-6327 Kansas racketeer influenced and corrupt organization act, Kansas has defined a variety of activities that may be included in racketeering and for which separate charges can be brought. Kansas uses a grid system to determine appropriate sentences.

Kentucky

Under Kentucky Revised Statute[s] (KRS) 506.120, engaging in organized crime, the crime is a class B felony (10 to 20 years imprisonment), unless retail merchandise was stolen or acquired to resell, in which case it is a class C felony (five to 10 years imprisonment). Fines may also be imposed. Prior criminal convictions may increase the sentence.

Louisiana

Under 2011 Louisiana Laws, Revised Statutes, TITLE 15 – Criminal procedure, RS 15:1352 – Definitions, penalties include:

  • A fine of up to $1,000,000 and/or up to 50 years hard labor. At least five years must be served if gains or losses caused exceed $10,000.
  • Fine of up to three times the value gained or loss caused

Maine

Maine does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Maryland

Maryland does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Michigan

Under Michigan Penal Code 750.159f, 750.159g (Racketeering), penalties include:

  • Incarceration
  • Fines
  • Forfeiture of assets
  • Restitution to the victims

Minneosta

Under 2017 Minnesota Statutes, CRIMES; EXPUNGEMENT; VICTIMS, Chapter 609:

  • Section 609.903, Racketeering,
  • Section 609.904, CRIMINAL PENALTIES
  • Section 609.905, Criminal forfeiture

Penalties are:

  • Up to 20 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to $1,000,000
  • Fine of up to three times the value gained or loss caused
  • Injunctive relief
  • Disposition of the fine proceeds
  • Restitution
  • Forfeiture

Mississippi

Under 2013 Mississippi Code, Title 97 – CRIMES, Chapter 43 – RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATION ACT (RICO), Section 97-43-3 – Definitions, penalties are indicated:

  • Felony crime. Fine of up to $25,000 and/or up to 20 years imprisonment
  • A fine of up to three times the value gained or loss caused

Missouri

Missouri does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act. Additionally, civil charges may be brought to the offender by the victims.

Montana

Montana does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act. Additionally, civil charges may be brought to the offender by the victims.

Nebraska

Nebraska Revised Statutes Chapter 28. Crimes and Punishments Section 28-1354. Terms, defined, racketeering is covered under the Public Protection Act. This covers all the possible crimes that can be involved in racketeering, for which a defendant must face separate charges.

Nevada

Under CHAPTER 207 – MISCELLANEOUS CRIMES:

  • NRS 207.350 Definitions
  • NRS 207.400 Unlawful acts; penalties
  • NRS 207.410 Alternate fine for unlawful acts
  • NRS 207.420 Criminal forfeiture: Property subject to forfeiture; substitution for unreachable property
  • NRS 207.430 Criminal forfeiture: Temporary restraining order to preserve property
  • NRS 207.440 Criminal forfeiture: Orders to secure property
  • NRS 207.450 Criminal forfeiture: Order of forfeiture; protection of property
  • NRS 207.460 Civil forfeiture: Property subject to forfeiture
  • NRS 207.470 Civil actions for damages resulting from racketeering
  • NRS 207.490 Criminal and civil forfeiture: Seizure of property before forfeiture and final disposition; order of forfeiture; intercession by Attorney General; interlocutory actions by court

Penalties vary depending on the circumstances of the case. They include fines, as well as both criminal and civil forfeiture.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

New Jersey

Under New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C Section 41-1, racketeering is defined as:

  • A crime in the 1st Punished by 10 to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $200,000. If the crime involved violence or firearms, it is a 1st degree crime.
  • A crime in the 2nd Punished by five to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $150,000 for any other racketeering violation

New Mexico

Under:

  • 2011 New Mexico Statutes, Chapter 30: Criminal Offenses, Article 42: Racketeering, 30-42-1 through 30-42-6, Section 30-42-6: Racketeering; civil remedies.
  • 2011 New Mexico Statutes, Chapter 30: Criminal Offenses, Article 42: Racketeering, 30-42-1 through 30-42-6, Section 30-42-4: Prohibited activities; penalties.

Penalties include:

  • Forfeiture
  • Restitution of up to three times the value gained or loss caused

New York

Under New York Penal Code Article 460, et seq. racketeering is a class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 or twice the amount gained from the crime, whichever is greater.

North Carolina

Under:

  • North Carolina General Statutes 1475D (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations)
  • North Carolina General Statutes 14-75D-3(c) (Money laundering)

Penalties include:

  • Incarceration
  • Fines
  • Forfeiture of assets
  • Restitution to the victims

North Dakota

Under CHAPTER 12.1 – 06.1 RACKETEER INFLUENCED AND CORRUPT ORGANIZATIONS, punishments include:

  • Civil liabilities
  • Forfeiture
  • Charges of any other crime involved in racketeering, including prostitution and computer crimes

Ohio

Under Ohio Revised Code – Title [29] XXIX CRIMES – PROCEDURE – Chapter 2923: CONSPIRACY, ATTEMPT, AND COMPLICITY; WEAPONS CONTROL; CORRUPT ACTIVITY, 2923.31 Corrupt activity definitions, the penalties for racketeering vary but mainly focus on restitution and on separate criminal charges for precise illegal activities.

Oklahoma

Under 2014 Oklahoma Statutes, Title 22. Criminal Procedure, Section 22-1402. Definitions, the Oklahoma Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, punishments include criminal charges for the crimes committed as part of the racketeering act, civil penalties, and forfeiture.

Oregon

Under ORS 166.720 Racketeering activity unlawful; penalties:

  • Racketeering is a class A felony punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment.
  • Restitution of three times the value gained or loss caused

Pennsyvlania

Under Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, Section 911, racketeering is a 1st degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines.

Rhode Island

Under CHAPTER 7-15, Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations:

  • Section 7-15-3. Penalties for violations – Disposition of seized property
  • Section 7-15-3.1. Criminal forfeiture procedures
  • Section 7-15-4. Civil remedies – Actions by attorney general and injured persons
  • Section 7-15-4.1. Asset forfeiture fund.

Penalties include forfeiture, restitution, and fines.

South Carolina

South Carolina does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

South Dakota

South Dakota does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Tennesse

Under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act of 1989. T.C.A. Section 39-12-201 et seq., penalties are indicated as:

  • Class B felony punishable by up to $250,000 fine and/or Range II sentence unless individual acts qualified the offender for a higher sentence.
  • Restitution of three times the value gained or loss caused

Texas

Under Texas Organized Crime Statute (Penal Code, Title 11, Chapter 71, Section 71.02), the penalties set are very harsh. If organized criminal activity took place, then the level of the offense is one higher than if it had been committed by an individual. The only exception is if the most serious offense was already a 1st degree felony, in which case it will remain as such.

Utah

Under Utah Code, Title 76 Utah Criminal Code, Chapter 10 Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, Welfare, and Morals, Part 16 Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act, Section 1603.5 Violation a felony — Costs — Fines — Divestiture — Restrictions — Dissolution or reorganization — Prior restraint, penalties are indicated as:

  • 2nd degree felony punishable by one to 15 years imprisonment and/or fine of up to $10,000
  • Court and investigation costs
  • Fine of up to twice the proceeds
  • Restitution

Vermont

Vermont does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Virginia

Under 2006 Code of Virginia Section 18.2-514 – Racketeering offenses, 18.2-514. Racketeering offenses, each act involved in the racketeering activity is a felony offense. Forfeiture will also be required.

Washington

Under Chapter 9A.82 RCW, CRIMINAL PROFITEERING ACT 9A.82.100, Remedies and procedures, penalties are as follows:

  • For offenders to divest themselves of the enterprise
  • To restrict how the offender can behave or invest in the future
  • To order the dissolution of enterprises, or their reorganization
  • Payment of damages
  • Payment of costs and expenses of prosecution
  • Forfeiture
  • Restitution

West Virginia

West Virginia Code, CHAPTER 46A. WEST VIRGINIA CONSUMER CREDIT AND PROTECTION ACT., ARTICLE 6F. TELEMARKETING:

  • Section 46A-6F-114. Telemarketer in good standing
  • Section 46A-6F-301. Registration of telemarketers

Covers racketeering by telemarketers in particular, leading to professional penalties and civil charges that may be brought against them. Other than that, West Virginia does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Wisconsin

Under Wisconsin State Legislature, Chapter 946, SUBCHAPTER VI, RACKETEERING ACTIVITY AND CONTINUING CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE, 946.84 Penalties, penalties are indicated as follows:

  • Class E felony
  • Fine of up to twice the value gained or loss caused, whichever is greater
  • Court imposed fine

Wyoming

Wyoming does not have a racketeering law or statute in place. All racketeering crimes are charged at the federal level. Criminal proceedings may be brought against the individual illegal actions involved in the overall racketeering act.

Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

About Geoffrey Nathan, Esq.

Geoffrey G Nathan is a top federal crimes lawyer and Chief Editor of FederalCharges.com. He is a licensed attorney in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts since 1988, admitted to practice in both Federal and State courts. If you have questions about your federal case he can help by calling 877.472.5775.