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Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer: RICO Cases


6/29/2020

If you are facing federal racketeering (RICO) charges, you need an attorney who understands how to defend against allegations of serious criminal activity. When you hire an experienced Philadelphia federal criminal defense lawyer, he or she can go to work examining the facts surrounding your charges to determine if you have any defenses you may be able to raise.

RICO violations can result in extremely serious consequences, and a federal criminal conviction can affect nearly every aspect of your life. For this reason, you don’t want to risk your defense to just any attorney. The right Philadelphia federal criminal defense attorney can help to ensure that your case is resolved as favorably as possible. To learn more about your options, call or contact us online today.

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law that was passed in 1970 and signed by President Richard Nixon. RICO was enacted to address organized crime within the United States. RICO is well-known for being the basis for the prosecution of mob bosses who arranged Mafia-linked crimes. In more recent times, federal authorities use RICO for a wide range of criminal activity. Before RICO, state and federal prosecutors were required to try people involved in organized crime individually. Since different people perpetrated each crime, the government could only prosecute individual criminals instead of dismantling an entire criminal ring.

A related statute, Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering (VICAR), addresses violent crimes. Those who are charged under RICO could end up with civil and criminal penalties. Individuals involved in organized crime can be charged under RICO for the following offenses:

  • Illegal gambling
  • Bribery
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Assaults
  • Arson
  • Money laundering
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement
  • Drug trafficking
  • Slavery
  • Numerous other illegal business practices

A conviction for RICO charges requires that the government prove that you engaged in a minimum of two instances of racketeering activity within the last two years through an enterprise. Common examples of an enterprise include crime families, street gangs, or drug cartels. As such, alleged leaders of a criminal organization can be tried for the crimes; they ordered other individuals to commit. Additionally, the prosecutor in a RICO case will need to show that you participated, invested, or had an interest in an illegal enterprise involving interstate or foreign commerce in order to obtain a conviction. A Philadelphia federal criminal defense attorney can look and identify holes in their case that support your defense.

RICO’s Criminal and Civil Charges

Under RICO, the federal government can seek criminal penalties. It also allows victims to file private civil causes of action (18 U.S.C. sec. 1964(c)). In fact, a victim can file a civil suit to obtain as much as triple their damages plus fees for their Philadelphia Federal criminal defense lawyer. If you are convicted on criminal RICO charges, your conviction can be used at your civil trial as evidence, and you will likely be liable for any damages victims suffered.

Penalties for Racketeering Convictions

If convicted under RICO, the maximum penalty you can receive is a $250,000 fine for the crime committed and up to 20 years in federal prison. If you gained profits or property illegally from racketeering, you will have to turn those over. In addition to charges and penalties under RICO, you can also be charged and convicted on the alleged criminal activities such as murder or drug trafficking. You will then face penalties for those charges as well. Depending on the type of crime you committed, your total penalties could mean decades in prison and up to tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Because of these potentially serious consequences, you should be sure to hire a seasoned Philadelphia federal criminal defense lawyer as soon as you realize you may be facing a RICO case.

Potential RICO Defenses

Depending on your situation and your charges, several possible defenses could apply in your case. For example, your Philadelphia federal criminal defense lawyer could argue that there was no continuity between the criminal activities and, therefore, a pattern cannot be identified. The prosecution must be able to prove the following  elements to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • An enterprise existed
  • The enterprise impacted interstate or foreign commerce
  • You were employed by or associated with the enterprise
  • You participated in a pattern of racketeering activity
  • You conducted or participated in the activities of the enterprise through that pattern of racketeering activity by committing at least two acts of racketeering activity

Your attorney can work to cast doubt on the existence of one or more of these elements. Other defenses will depend on the type of crime you have been charged with, such as drug trafficking or murder and the specific details of your case. In addition, your best course of action may be to negotiate a favorable plea bargain that minimizes the penalties you may be facing. Your legal team can explain the complexities of your case and the best possible defense strategy.

Should You Speak to Law Enforcement?

Maybe local or federal law enforcement officials have asked you to come in for an interview, or perhaps you are arrested on RICO charges. Although it can be extremely difficult to try not to defend yourself and say all that you can to do so, there has never been a more critical time to remain quiet. With RICO charges, alleged perpetrators can be found guilty of crimes they did not take part in but were a part of organized crime, waiting until you have a skilled Philadelphia federal criminal defense attorney on your side to speak is in your best interest. Keep in mind that you always have the right to remain silent.  Your attorney can accompany you to interrogations to safeguard your legal rights.

Hire an Experienced Philadelphia Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer

Federal prosecutors are very serious when it comes to RICO crimes, which can result in lengthy prison sentences and substantial fines. If you or a loved one has been charged with RICO drug crimes, call Wimmer Criminal Defense. A Philadelphia federal criminal defense attorney who has successfully defended their clients facing federal RICO charges can guide you through the court process, explore all viable legal defenses, and negotiate with investigators and prosecutors to get your charges reduced or dismissed and defend you in court.

Call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today at 215-712-1212 or use our convenient online contact form to schedule your case consultation.