Charlotte RICO Defense Lawyers

First passed by Congress in the 1970s, RICO is a federal law that criminalizes organized crime. RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) often launch complex investigations under RICO. These federal agencies devote significant time and resources to investigating and bringing criminal RICO charges against a defendant.

If You are Facing RICO Charges, You Need a Skilled Lawyer

If you are under investigation for a RICO charge or you have already been charged, you need to hire an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. RICO charges are often more complicated than other federal charges. You will need to hire the right defense lawyer who will give you the best possible chance at beating your charges. The experienced lawyers at Arnold & Smith, PLLC can help you develop a persuasive defense strategy. Contact our law firm as soon as possible to schedule your free initial consultation.

Understanding the RICO Act

The RICO Act is one of the more complicated pieces of federal law. Congress originally enacted RICO as a way for the federal government to combat the Mafia. The original intent of RICO was for the prosecution of organizations and businesses formed for criminal purposes. The 'R' in RICO refers to racketeering. Racketeering, in its most basic form, refers to criminal extortion or criminal coercion. Currently, however, federal prosecutors use RICO extensively to prosecute other fraudulent actions.

What Constitutes RICO Charges?

When the federal government believes that a person is engaging in a pattern of criminality, federal prosecutors may be able to bring RICO charges. The types of organized crime targeted by RICO include the following:

  • Organized crime focused on financial gain
  • Organized crime with political motivations
  • Organized crime focused on some type of personal benefit
  • Mexican drug cartels
  • Criminal organizations of companies or individuals
  • Gangs
  • Corrupt police departments
  • Corrupt corporations or other business entities
  • Mobs
  • A group operating an unlawful college admission scheme

Prosecutors who bring charges under RICO allege that the criminal organization engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. To establish a pattern, prosecutors must show that the defendant or defendants engaged in two or more specific criminal offenses within a 10-year time frame. The federal RICO statute is purposefully vague and lists 35 specific offenses that include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Tax evasion
  • Securities violations
  • Counterfeiting
  • Witness tampering
  • Homicide
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Arson
  • Illegal gambling
  • Money laundering
  • Drug crimes
  • Bribery
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion
  • Fraud

Prosecutors often charge the individuals who committed the actual crimes along with anyone in the criminal organization who was associated with the criminal offenses. The following North Carolina crimes can also lead to federal RICO charges, such as:

  • Extortion
  • Bribery
  • Gambling
  • Robbery
  • Drug crimes
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
Penalties for RICO Charges in North Carolina

The federal government pours significant resources into investigating and proving RICO charges. The federal RICO law allows for severe penalties for those convicted of RICO violations. Defendants will face additional penalties, such as prison time and fines, for any underlying crimes of which they are convicted. RICO penalties can include the following:

  • Fines of $250,000 or twice the amount of any unlawful profits gained by the defendant
  • Up to 20 years in federal prison
  • Forfeiture of property or any money connected to the criminal conduct
Civil Penalties for Criminal RICO Violations

Federal prosecutors bring RICO charges in criminal courts. Those facing criminal charges can also face civil liability for RICO violations. People harmed by RICO can file a lawsuit to seek significant monetary damages. The federal statute allows plaintiff to file personal injury lawsuits against those engaged in criminal conduct.

Defenses to RICO Charges

The prosecutor in a RICO case has a significant burden of proof. They will need to prove all of the elements of the RICO charge beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a criminal conviction. The best way to beat RICO charges is to develop a winning defense strategy. The following defenses are the most effective and commonly used in RICO cases:

  • There was no criminal enterprise directed by the defendant's activity
  • There was no pattern of predicate offenses
  • The entity, group, or gang is not an organization, instead, it is a loose association of individuals
Our RICO Defense Lawyers can Help

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our lawyers have the experience and trial skills necessary to defend you in a RICO lawsuit. Contact our law firm today to schedule your free initial consultation.