How the Federal RICO Statute Compares To Georgia’s
The RICO Act, or simply RICO, stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. This law was enacted in 1970 as a way for the government to combat organized crime which, at the time, specifically meant the Mafia.
RICO laws allow for groups to be tied together and face criminal and civil penalties. The law was designed to take down organized crime syndicates. Anyone with a purported connection to a criminal organization can be targeted, from the most low-level participant, to the leaders and organizers.
A racket is a fraudulent organization or scheme meant to extort money through coercion. Thus, racketeering is traditionally thought to be a sort of illegal enterprise which functions through intimidation. Under both federal and state level RICO statutes, many activities are categorized as illegal rackets. They need to be alleged and proven for a conviction under the statute.
Some of these activities include but are not limited to:
- Drug Trafficking Operations
- Wire Fraud and Mail Fraud
- Money Laundering
- White Collar Crimes
- Felony Crimes
Two or more acts of racketeering must be proven by federal prosecutors for a RICO charge. Along with this, the defendant must be guilty of continuously having investments or engagements with a criminal organization. Under federal law, one more crucial aspect needs to tie all of it together: the alleged criminal acts must have affected interstate commerce.
RICO allows prosecutors at the federal level to connect crimes, activities, and individuals in order to pursue harsher penalties.
Violating this law also opens up the possibility of facing civil liability. Individuals who claim to be affected in their business or property by the racketeering activity – for example, those who may have suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s actions – can sue for recovery of damages.
Georgia’s RICO Act Explained
Georgia’s RICO law is broader than its federal counterpart. What does this mean? First, the conduct criminalized under the state law is more wide-ranging. Second, the existence of a criminal organization does not always have to be proved by the state in order to convict.
District attorneys in Georgia are empowered to charge someone with state RICO violations and it can be easier to convict defendants on the state level than it is on the federal level.
Punishments for RICO Violations
Being convicted under RICO is not something anyone wants. Both federal and state convictions can lead to decades behind bars and expensive fines, not to mention the fact that civil penalties are also a collateral consequence.
In Georgia, being convicted under the state’s RICO statute can mean facing up to 20 years in jail, fines of up to 3 times the amount of money made in the course of the racketeering activity, or both. The court can also force the defendant, if convicted, to relinquish any business interest or property that the court found to be illegally obtained.
Defenses Against RICO Charges
There are defenses for accusations of racketeering and organized crime. The government needs to prove a connection, or pattern, of sustained criminal activity. If the evidence the government presents is weak then it can be disputed. Another defense could attack the alleged existence of a criminal enterprise. Regardless, without a criminal defense attorney versed in both federal and state statutes, your defenses will be weak. You want to maximize your chances at a fair outcome and a strong legal strategy. Molly Parmer can help you achieve this.