A RICO charge may be based on alleged financial crimes
Practically every television network has its own primetime franchise featuring the interplay between law enforcement officials and alleged criminals. While these shows often provide a great deal of entertainment for some New Orleans residents, they may raise questions about possible crimes for others. White collar crime can be a confusing area of criminal law to understand, especially with regard to one type of charge, often referred to as a RICO charge.
In 1978, the United States Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which now is often simply called RICO. Racketeering or running a racket involves operating an organization that allegedly engages in illegal activity. Organized crime rings and gangs have been charged under RICO, as have legitimate groups such as churches and non-profits.
In some cases, a RICO charge arises from an organization’s alleged involvement in money laundering, fraud or other financial crimes. Alleged financial crimes are often used to tie individuals to suspected corrupt organizations, and through those affiliations individuals find themselves facing federal RICO charges. A RICO charge does not have to be based on a financial crime, however; any criminal activity engaged in by an organization may form the basis of a RICO charge.
While television programs may gloss over the legal details of an episode’s RICO storyline, defending a person from such charges can be cumbersome. A RICO investigation can take months or even years before authorities have sufficient evidence to file charges and as such, when a person finds himself facing RICO allegations, the burden of overcoming them can be heavy. Though they are often popularized on television, RICO charges and the allegations of criminal activity that support them are serious legal matters that can result in significant penalties against individuals convicted of the charges.