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Miami Racketeering Attorney, Serving Fort Lauderdale & the Nearby Areas
Racketeering can take many different forms. Both federal and state laws criminalize racketeering in order to fight organized crime. Florida’s RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) Act prohibits racketeering patterns. It is similar to the federal RICO Act, but there are critical differences. If you are being prosecuted under state or federal anti-racketeering laws, an experienced Miami RICO Act defense attorney can help you understand your legal options.
Understanding the Federal RICO Act
The federal RICO law became effective as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The original purpose of passing it was to pursue those engaged in organized crime. Under the federal RICO law, someone who commits two criminal activities related to racketeering and involving interstate commerce within a 10-year period can be prosecuted. Under this law, racketeering can take many different forms. It can consist of acts or threats involving kidnapping, murder, gambling, arson, bribery, extortion, robbery, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical that can be charged under Florida law and result in more than a year of incarceration. It can also include other enumerated acts.
It's illegal for anybody who’s received any income indirectly or directly from a pattern of racketeering conduct or through collection of an illegal debt in which that person served as a principal to use or invest any part of the income to acquire an interest in an enterprise engaged in interstate or foreign commerce.
What Crimes Fall Under the RICO Act?
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Act) is a federal law in the United States that was enacted to combat organized crime and criminal organizations involved in a pattern of racketeering activity. Racketeering activity includes a variety of crimes, and the RICO Act allows for the prosecution of individuals or entities involved in a pattern of such criminal behavior.
These crimes that fall under the RICO Act can include:
- Extortion: The act of obtaining property or money from someone through the use of threats, intimidation, or coercion.
- Bribery: Offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting something of value to influence the actions of a public official or other person in a position of authority.
- Money Laundering: The process of concealing the origins of illegally obtained money, typically by transferring it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions.
- Gambling Offenses: Including illegal gambling operations or sports betting.
- Loan Sharking: Offering loans at extremely high interest rates and using illegal or violent means to collect debts.
- Drug Trafficking: Participation in the production, distribution, or sale of illegal drugs.
- Arms Trafficking: Illegally buying, selling, or transferring firearms and other weapons.
- Prostitution: Running or participating in organized prostitution activities.
- Embezzlement: The misappropriation or theft of money or property entrusted to someone's care.
- Fraud: Various forms of fraud, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and healthcare fraud.
- Counterfeiting: The production and distribution of counterfeit currency or goods.
- Racketeering: Engaging in illegal activities for financial gain, often within an organized criminal enterprise.
- Witness Tampering: Attempting to influence, intimidate, or obstruct witnesses in legal proceedings.
- Homicide: Including murder for hire or contract killings.
- Kidnapping: Abduction or unlawful restraint of an individual.
The RICO Act allows law enforcement and prosecutors to target and prosecute individuals or organizations engaged in a pattern of these criminal activities. To establish a RICO violation, the prosecution typically needs to prove that the defendant was involved in at least two instances of racketeering activity within a ten-year period.
It's important to note that the RICO Act provides for both criminal and civil penalties. In a criminal case, a conviction under the RICO Act can result in substantial fines and imprisonment. In a civil case, individuals or entities may be subject to treble damages (three times the actual damages) if found liable under the RICO Act.
A RICO Act violation will allege participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering. It is a felony. “Racketeering” under the Florida RICO Act is defined as perpetrating, conspiring, or trying to conspire or intimidate, solicit, or coerce someone else to perpetrate a crime that would be chargeable by information, indictment, or petition.
What does it mean to have a “pattern” of racketeering under state law? A pattern of racketeering involves at least two instances that are defined as racketeering. These can’t be isolated incidents, and they need to share distinctive characteristics that are interrelated. Additionally, one of the incidents needs to happen after 1997, the effective date for the RICO law.
The Florida law prohibits using any money earned from racketeering to acquire or obtain an interest in property or real estate if there’s evidence of criminal intent behind getting these proceeds. It also prohibits obtaining or acquiring real estate or property interests by collecting illegal debts. It further prohibits being involved with or employed by an organization involved in a pattern of racketeering or collection of an unlawful debt.
What Must Be Proven under RICO to Obtain a Conviction?
You can be charged under the Florida RICO Act with a felony violation, which is punished with a maximum of 30 years in state prison, if the prosecutor can show the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- You were associated with an enterprise;
- You directly or indirectly participated in the enterprise by being involved in a minimum of two racketeering activity events, and;
- For incidents in which you were engaged, at least two had similar or the same types of accomplices, victims, intents, results, methods of commission, or were interconnected by distinguishing characteristics that weren’t isolated incidents.
A prosecutor doesn’t need to show that the RICO enterprise or that the predicate acts included a financial motivation. The prosecutor’s charging documents don’t need to identify the relationship between defendants and the crimes the documents allege.
Penalties for Racketeering in Florida
Under Florida law, a violation of the RICO Act is considered a first-degree felony charge with a possible punishment of up to 30 years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. Instead of the court imposing a $10,000 fine, you could be sentenced to a fine of triple damages. Fines might be imposed where you perpetrated racketeering in which you obtained some sort of money or services or property or where you caused personal injuries to somebody.
Defenses to RICO Charges
Defending against racketeering charges under the RICO Act can be challenging, but working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help you navigate your options. Charges can be complex—in order to prove that there was a pattern of racketeering, the prosecutor may need to show perpetration or attempted perpetration of more than one predicate act. It may be possible to defend on the grounds that the acts were isolated incidents or not interrelated or didn’t have the same intents, victims, results, accomplices or methods of commission. Other potential defenses are withdrawal or lack of knowledge.
The Hoffman Firm Rico Law Legal Counsel
If you’re charged under the state or federal RICO Act, Miami racketeering defense lawyer Evan Hoffman can answer your questions regarding your charges, your rights, and your legal options. The Hoffman Firm represents clients in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Deerfield Beach, Plantation, Pembroke Pines, Sunrise, and the surrounding areas.
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