A person facing RICO charges could face lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines if convicted. But Has anyone ever beat a RICO charge?. Well, whether you’re currently facing such a charge or you want to abreast yourself with what the charge entails, this is the article for you.
In this article we will discuss what a RICO charge is, the crimes that can bring about a RICO charge, the relevant laws, people who beat RICO charges and also answer some related questions. Keep reading to know more.
What is a RICO Charge?
RICO is an abbreviation for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, a charge brought about by the enactment of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, also known as the RICO act. The act came into force on October 15th, 1970.
The RICO act initially targeted organized crime enterprises and their leaders such as gang and the mafia, who would order crimes to be committed on their behalf and would escape prosecution since they didn’t commit the crimes in person.
With time, the law has been expanded to target racketeering in particular, an organized crime which sees perpetrators profiting from a business that would otherwise be legal through means such as extortion and coercion.
How do you get a RICO charge
To prove racketeering or get a RICO charge, there are two main elements that must exist according the definition under the RICO act. They are:
- A Criminal Enterprise – The crime must have been in furtherance of the illegal business activity of a criminal group such as a gang.
- Pattern of criminal activity – A minimum of two RICO predicate offenses must have been committed within 10 years of each other to get RICO charges.
What are the 35 crimes included in the RICO act
There is a strict definition of the crimes that can bring upon federal RICO charges. These are known as predicate offenses.
The law requires that the crimes must be connected to some type of ongoing criminal enterprise with two or more of the qualifying crimes (Predicate offenses) committed by the same enterprise within a ten year period.
Predicate offenses committed by a criminal enterprise that constitute RICO include:
In 2021, Brandon Durell Hardison, aka the Creeper was convicted of RICO Murder, killing Witness, and Other Violent Crimes. He was known to law enforcement as a hit man and enforcer for the criminal racketeering enterprise known as the Gangster Disciples.
2. Bank fraud
Bank fraud falls under Civil RICO. For example if a bank uses extortion and coercion to force you to turn over your assets or make you provide more collateral, you can bring civil RICO charges against the bank.
3. Drug trafficking
Drug trafficking is yet another crime that can bring about RICO charges on drug traffickers. In August 2012, 9 members of a drug trafficking ring, known as the “Rodriguez Enterprise”.
The Rodriguez Enterprise is described as an enormous racketeering organization whose members were alleged to have sold huge quantities of Indian hemp; participated in murder and other violent actions and laundered millions of dollars, obstructed justice and committed perjury, among other firearm related crimes.
Other crimes that can bring upon a RICO charge include: Money laundering, Embezzlement, Mail fraud, Extortion, Gambling, Counterfeiting, kidnapping, arson, bribery.
Has anyone ever beat a RICO charge?
Yes, there are countless people who successfully beat RICO charges or have the charges dropped against them. Below are people who beat a RICO charge in US.
1. Winston Connor, II
Criminal defense attorney, Winston Connor, II in February, 2022, had RICO charges against him dismissed by Associate Judge Clifford Smith. Attorney Connor faced the charges for his alleged connection with a murder convict, Slint Tate who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Delaware County, Oklahoma reserve deputy Vernie Milford in 1999.
2. Brian Harper
Brian Harper was arrested and charged for allegedly violating the RICO act in a wiretap investigation dubbed “Operation Shut Down the Hustle“.
Mr. Harper was accused of being a member of a gang named the Four Corner Hustlers street gang, whose actions violated the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The state however dropped RICO charges due to “Harper’s alleged involvement was less than other defendants“.
3. Vagos biker gang
In April 2020, Federal RICO charges were dropped against members of the Vagos Biker gang accused of Racketeering and murder of the leader of a rival gang in a Casino shootout.
Famous RICO cases
Since the RICO act was enacted in 1970, several high profile individuals have faced RICO charges. The following are 5 of the most famous rico cases.
1. R. Kelly RICO case
Musician R. Kelly was on 29th June, 2022, sentenced to 30 years in prison on federal racketeering and sex trafficking charges.
2. Young Thug
In May, 2022, US rapper Young Thug was arrested by law enforcement citing his alleged involvement in gang activities. He is currently facing RICO charges.
3. John “Dapper Don” Gotti
In 1992, John Gotti of the Gambino Crime Family was convicted on racketeering and murder charges and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
4. Michael Milken
Michael Robert Milken, a famous US businessman, financier and philanthropist was indicted on RICO charges in 1989 for his involvement in the development of the market for high-yield bonds (“junk bonds“).
Afraid of getting a life sentence if it made it to trial, Milken pleaded guilty to six counts of securities and tax violations and got 2 years prison sentence in a plea bargain. On February 18th, 2020, he received a presidential pardon by president Donald Trump.
5. Sonny Barger
Sonny Barger was a founding member of the Oakland, California chapter of “Hells Angels Motorcycle Club”. In June 1979, Sonny Barger, his wife and several members of the Motorcycle club were indicted on RICO charges, citing illegal weapons and drugs. After a mistrial, Barger, his wife Sharon and another were acquitted. 9 members of the club, however were convicted.
How to beat RICO charges
To bring RICO charges on an accused person, the crime and circumstances must fit the technical definition of what constitutes RICO. If you’re facing RICO charges, your criminal defense attorney will assess the specific nature of your case and device a defense strategy. Some RICO defense considered valid under the law include:
1. Non-membership of a criminal enterprise
Being able to prove that you’re not a member, agent or assign of the criminal enterprise in question, or your activities are not linked to a criminal enterprise will mean that, even if you’re culpable for the crime, RICO will not apply.
If you believe you’re wrongly accused of the crimes that brought about the RICO charges, proving your innocence beyond reasonable doubt will get the charge dismissed. Sometimes prosecutors realize they have the wrong guy and move to dismiss the charges.
It is worthy of note that, even if you’re able to get RICO charges dropped or dismissed, you still can face other charges for the particular criminal offenses you’re accused of.
is RICO a federal charge
The RICO act is a federal law and as such, the charges are federal. However, more than 30 individual US states have fashioned their own statutes that can bring State RICO charges upon a suspect. An example of a state with RICO law is the Illinois Street Gang and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act which was signed into law in June 2012.
RICO statute of limitation
The statute of limitation for RICO civil claims is 4 years. This was adopted by the US Supreme court following the case of Agency Holding Corp. v Malley-Duff & Associates, Inc., 483 U.S. 143 (1987). This four year statute of limitation begins from the date the damages were discovered.
RICO charges and penalties
RICO is a federal felony charge, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, however, one can be face life imprisonment if any of the predicate crimes is punishable by life imprisonment, such as murder.
Other penalties for racketeering include:
- $250,000 in fines or twice the illegal profits gained from racketeering,
- asset seizure and forfeiture.
It must be noted also that, civil suits RICO could arise from RICO charges and the damages could end up paying triple the actual damages caused by the racketeering endeavor.
In answering the question “Has anyone ever beat a RICO charge?”, we have come to know what constitutes RICO, some individuals who either beat RICO or had the charge dismissed and other relevant legal points.
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