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Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 49 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 1157-1212
Russell Squire; Susannah Ostlund
Date Published
56 pages
This review of the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) addresses elements of the offense, defenses to charges brought under it, criminal penalties, civil proceedings under RICO, and non-traditional uses of RICO.
RICO was enacted as Title IX of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 as a means of combating organized crime. RICO aims to eliminate organized crime by bringing the "highly diversified acts of a single organized crime enterprise under RICO's umbrella" and "to curb the infiltration of legitimate business organizations by racketeers." RICO, however, has been broadly applied beyond the context of organized crime, since Congress mandated that RICO "be liberally construed to effectuate its remedial purposes." Thus, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that RICO may be applied to legitimate businesses and to enterprises without a profit motive. RICO does not require mens rea beyond that necessary for the predicate acts, and it carries severe sanctions in addition to those a defendant may receive for the underlying offenses. In addition to criminal actions, RICO permits private plaintiffs and the Government to seek redress in civil actions. This article generally addresses RICO prosecutions for "white-collar" crimes. It first explains the elements of a RICO offense, followed by an examination of a variety of potential defenses to RICO prosecutions. The article then addresses criminal penalties for RICO violations, including those specified in the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. This is followed by a discussion of civil remedies under RICO. The article concludes with a discussion of several recent developments related to RICO provisions and uses. 382 notes