The Georgia RICO Act has been a hot topic in the news lately without much explanation for what it actually is. Largely mirroring the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the Georgia RICO Act is a powerful tool for state prosecutors to stop criminal or corrupt enterprises and prosecute those involved.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of what goes into establishing whether or not someone’s activities can be prosecuted under the Georgia RICO Act, what penalties can be levied if a conviction is handed down, and why having the right legal representation is vital if you are on the receiving end of a RICO charge.

What Is the Georgia RICO Act?

In 1980, legislators passed the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act so that the state could prosecute the same activities that the federal government prosecutes under one specific title of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. Title IX of that federal law, commonly referred to as the RICO Act, was initially intended to target organized criminal enterprises such as the Mafia.

The state and federal laws allow prosecutors to bring charges against groups of individuals who have engaged in racketeering activities and gained fiscal or other benefits from those crimes. The somewhat broader Georgia law also allows for the prosecution of individuals who have engaged in these patterns of activity, even if they have not made any monetary profit from the acts.

What Is Racketeering?

While we’ll get into more detail about what constitutes racketeering in next month’s article, the term “racketeering” refers to establishing a fraudulent, extortionate, coercive, or otherwise illegal scheme for collecting a profit or other benefits. Confidence scams (cons), protection rackets, illegal betting operations, money laundering schemes, and hundreds of other criminal activities are considered racketeering under state and federal law.

In short, racketeering occurs when someone sets up an illegal scheme for profit – monetary or otherwise.

Bribery people with dollar bills in hand and quiet gesture

What Is a RICO Charge?

Someone can be charged under the Georgia RICO Act if they, acting alone or as part of a group, engage in multiple acts of interconnected racketeering that build towards a common goal, such as collecting money into a common account or accounts.

Unlike most crimes, where the commission of a particular act must be proven in court for a conviction, a RICO charge requires only that the prosecution establish a pattern of behavior.

While the Act was originally written and used to take on organized crime, its use has expanded considerably. Most famously, it is currently being used to prosecute former President Donald Trump and others for allegedly attempting to interfere with election results. In 2009, prosecutors successfully used the Georgia RICO Act to prosecute eleven educators in the Atlanta Public Schools system for cheating on students’ standardized tests to raise test scores.

State vs. Federal RICO Charges

As noted above, the Georgia RICO Act is broader than the Federal RICO Act, and violations are more easily proven. Unlike the federal law, which requires multiple individuals to be involved in a scheme to be prosecuted, the Georgia law allows for individual prosecutions under a much broader definition of “enterprise.”

The federal law also requires prosecutors to demonstrate that the perpetrators showed a “pecuniary profit,” which is an actual inflow of cash or increase in the value of assets. The Georgia law has no such requirements, so even defendants who made no money off their scheme can be prosecuted.

What Are the Possible Penalties for a RICO Charge?

Violation of the Georgia RICO Act is a felony, and a conviction can bring about penalties including:

  • A prison term of 5-20 years
  • A fine equaling up to three times the amount of money gained from the illegal acts, but no less than $25,000

With such considerable fines and jail times possible for those charged under the Georgia RICO Act, it is clear that defendants will require exceptional legal advice as they navigate their case. RICO prosecutions are typically high-profile, and the prosecutors will work every possible angle to ensure that they get a conviction in the public eye.

Having an experienced attorney on your side can mean the difference between 20 years in prison and a more acceptable outcome. They will be able to work your case from multiple angles, identify the weak spots in a prosecutor’s case, and negotiate with both the court and the prosecution to deliver the best possible results for your RICO case.

Are you Facing a RICO Charge in State or Federal Court? Talk to Bushway Law Firm by Calling 478-621-4995.

Gregory Bushway is a former prosecutor who has successfully served as a criminal defense attorney in Macon, Georgia, since 2013. Having worked on both sides of cases in Georgia and federal court systems, he knows how to deliver the best results for his clients. Tell us about your case today: 478-621-4995

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