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Racketeering (RICO) Law & Defense

Racketeering is the collective term for a list of certain crimes related to criminal activity that is designed to benefit an organization such as a gang or a crime syndicate. RICO is an acronym that stands for Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.

The RICO act allows laws enforcement to charge individuals and groups with the crime of racketeering where the individual or the group commits multiple violations of particular crimes.


The particular crimes that are covered under RICO are crimes that are generally associated with criminal street gangs and organized crime syndicates. These crimes include Money Laundering, Human Trafficking, Bribery, Extortion, Murder, Kidnapping, Arson, Drug Dealing, Fraud, and Prostitution, just to name a few.

An organization can be a family, a street gang, a drug cartel, a political party, and even a corporation. The only requirement that federal district attorneys need to charge RICO violations is that at least two RICO crimes were committed within a ten year period.


For example, if a kidnapping is committed by a criminal street gang to benefit the organization, and years later, the criminal street gang extorts money for the benefit of the gang (in a completely different case), the government may charge racketeering crimes against the individual gang members and the gang as a group. This is true even if the kidnapping and the extortion crimes are almost ten years apart.

Racketeering is charged under federal RICO law. However, California has a similar law that is aimed at prosecuting organized crime. The California version of racketeering is better known as profiteering, which is charged under California penal code 186 thru 186.7.

The government may also collect restitution from any member of the organized crime, or the organization itself (See RICO statutes and PC 186.2 [referring to restitution from individual members of a criminal organization for the profiteering crimes of the organization as a whole in California]).


Racketeering convictions are punishable by up to twenty years in a federal prison unless the underlying criminal act that supported the racketeering charge provides for a longer sentence, in which case, the longer sentence is the maximum punishment. For example, the crime of murder is punishable by a maximum of life in prison. If the crime of murder is charged as the underlying crime in a RICO violation then the maximum sentence for that RICO violation is life in prison.

Note: If the defendant is found guilty of a racketeering the defendant may suffer the penalties of the underlying crimes plus up to twenty additional years in a federal prison for the RICO violation. Additionally, any assets of the organization may be seized as those assets are the product of illegal activity. The defendant may also incur up to a twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00) fine for each violation of the RICO act.

For example, if the defendant is facing ten years on a kidnapping charge and the defendant is found guilty of a RICO violation in connection with the kidnapping charge then the defendant may be facing up to thirty years in a federal prison (ten years for the kidnapping and twenty years for the racketeering associated with the kidnapping).

Monetary fines for RICO violations are up to $250,000 per violation or double the amount of actual loss to any victim.


There is no common defense to RICO violations as every underlying crime that supports the RICO charge may have several defenses. For example, a charge of murder, which is an enumerated RICO violation, may be defended with a self-defense claim, but a charge of Money Laundering, which is also an enumerated RICO violation, would never be associated with a claim of self-defense. With that in mind, if the defendant successfully defends against the underlying crime that is used to support the RICO violation then the RICO violation can not exist.

If you or a loved one is charged with racketeering under the federal RICO statute, or profiteering (PC 186 Crimes), contact our federal criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our office represents defendant charged with racketeering and all underlying RICO qualifying crimes. Call today!


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