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Racketeering involves a number of different types of crimes and these laws can be applied to several different situations. Basically, racketeering laws apply to groups that run a criminal enterprise or use a legal business to embezzle or launder illegally obtained money. Since these types of activities can affect public organizations and private businesses, the federal government has established racketeering laws that can be used to prosecute these types of criminal enterprises.
Deeper Look at Racketeering
In 1978, President Richard Nixon approved the first racketeering laws. Together, these laws were known as the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act and these laws were intended to stop collusion among criminals and to curb profiteering. The RICO Act gives law enforcement the tools to investigate criminal enterprises in an effort to apprehend individuals or groups engaged in racketeering. The RICO Act is especially aimed at stopping interstate rackets that affect legally operating businesses.
The United States Justice Department has since outlined the conditions for a racketeering condition. In order to be charged under the RICO Act, the prosecution must be able to show that a criminal enterprise existed and that it affected interstate commerce. Additionally, the prosecution must be able to establish that the defendant(s) were involved with the criminal enterprise and that they were actively involved in racketeering activities. Stressing involvement in the practice of racketeering, the laws further emphasize that each defendant must be shown to have been involved in at least two acts of racketeering.
Examples of Racketeering
In more basic terms, racketeering is a business that provides an illegal and often unethical service. The service is typically a solution to a problem when legal solutions won’t achieve the same result. However, the illegal solution is never quite what the individual expects. As a result, the person may be deprived of his money without really getting much in return. In the past, this was called a criminal racket, which is where we get the legal term of “racketeering”.
The most common situation that can result in racketeering charges is when a group threatens a business with damage and harm unless the business owner pays that group. This is typically caused a “protection fee,” but, in legal terms, it’s referred to as extortion. In this situation, the criminal organization creates the problem by threatening harm and solves the problem by offering protection from that harm.
A kidnapping racket involves taking a child or other individual with the intention of extorting ransom from the family. The kidnappers pledge to return their victim in exchange for a sum of money.
In a fencing racket, thieves sell stolen goods to a middle man at a reduced price. Since the items are usually reported stolen, the thieves have little choice other than to sell the items for less than their value. The middle man resells the items to unsuspecting customers at cost, making a nice profit.
Another crime that falls under the heading of racketeering involves gambling. When a group of criminals develops a scheme to control bets and fleece unsuspecting gamblers, this is called a numbers racket. The criminals pose as dealers and other gamblers to influence the bets of other gamblers, so they can maximize their gains.
As a federal crime, a charge of racketeering carries very stiff penalties. For that reason, you should not attempt to handle a defense against these charges without professional help. An experienced criminal defense attorney may offer your best chances in obtaining a more favorable outcome. While a dismissal of charges or acquittal may not always be possible, a criminal defense attorney may be able to obtain a reduced sentence in the event that you are convicted.