What the government must prove to convict you of a RICO crime

If you are a Missouri resident who has been charged under the federal RICO statute with committing a white collar crime, you may be wondering why you were not charged under a Missouri statute instead. You may never have heard of RICO and are concerned about what it is and what the government must do to convict you of your alleged crime.

The Office of the United States Attorneys explains that RICO is the acronym for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. Congress passed this federal statute in 1970 in an attempt to eradicate Mafia organized crime. However, it also is used to prosecute anyone the government believes is involved in things such as money laundering, mail fraud, counterfeiting, gambling, bribery, embezzlement, obstruction of justice and/or any other type of racketeering that affects interstate and/or foreign commerce and is prohibited under Title 18 of the Federal Criminal Code.

What the government must prove

To convict you of the crime with which you are charged, the government must prove the following five elements:

  1. There was an enterprise.
  2. It engaged in activities, called predicates, that affected interstate commerce.
  3. It employed you or you were associated with it in some way.
  4. You and it engaged in a pattern of racketeering.
  5. You and it committed at least two predicates in a 10-year period.

Defining enterprise

A RICO enterprise can be any of the following:

  • An individual
  • A partnership
  • A corporation
  • An association
  • Any other type of formal legal entity
  • An informal group of people associated in fact

Defining pattern of racketeering

A RICO pattern must consist of more than one occurrence of a predicate, and the multiple predicates must have been related criminal acts that posed a threat that they would continue in the future. The government proves closed-end continuity by showing that you and the enterprise committed two predicates in a 10-year period. It proves open-end continuity by showing that at least one predicate presented the distinct likelihood that such racketeering activity would and/or will continue in the future. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.