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The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (commonly referred to as RICO Act or RICO) is a law used to prosecute criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

Under RICO, a person or group who commits any 2 of 35 racketeering crimes-27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes-within a 10-year period and, in the opinion of the United States Attorney bringing the case, has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results can be charged with racketeering. Examples of racketeering activity includes:

  • Any violation of state statutes against gambling, murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substances
  • Any act of bribery, counterfeiting, theft, embezzlement, fraud, dealing in obscene matter, obstruction of justice, slavery, racketeering, gambling, money laundering, commission of murder-for-hire, and several other Federal crimes
  • Embezzlement of union funds
  • Bankruptcy or securities fraud
  • Drug trafficking
  • Money laundering and related offenses
  • Bringing in, aiding or assisting aliens in entering the country (if the action was for financial gain)
  • Acts of terrorism

When someone is indicted under RICO, the prosecutor has the option of seeking a pre-trial restraining order or injunction to temporarily seize the defendant's assets and prevent the transfer of potentially forfeitable property, as well as require the defendant to put up a performance bond.

A person convicted under RICO can be sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count. In addition, the person must forfeit all ill-gotten gains and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.”

Because of the complexity of RICO charges, it is crucial to hire a specialized criminal defense attorney. RICO-related charges are considered easy to prove in court, as they focus on patterns of behavior as opposed to criminal acts.

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