Last month, we took a deep dive into Georgia’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. That law has been in the news quite a bit lately following the indictment of former President Donald Trump on RICO charges in Fulton County. Although broader, Georgia’s RICO Act is similar to the federal RICO statute, which has been used to prosecute organized crime enterprises since the 1970s.
All RICO prosecutions are centered around a pattern of activities known as “racketeering,” a broad term encompassing multiple types of illegal activity. In this article, we’ll look at the kinds of activities that can be considered racketeering for the purposes of the RICO Act and why those facing a racketeering or RICO charge need to obtain experienced defense counsel to ensure that their case is heard fairly.
What Does “Racketeering” Mean?
In general, racketeering is the act of setting up a scheme or operation that is designed to illegally obtain a profit or other benefit through coercion, fraud, extortion, or other unlawful means.
The most common example used to explain racketeering is the “protection racket,” commonly used by organized crime enterprises. In the protection racket, the racketeers approach a business owner and offer to “protect” the business against vandalism, robbery, or burglary. In actuality, the main threat of robbery or vandalism comes from the racketeers themselves, and a business owner who does not pay the racket for “protection” will soon find their location burgled or vandalized.
What Are Some Examples of Racketeering?
There are hundreds of crimes that fall under the umbrella of racketeering. If committed as part of a scheme or ongoing operation, almost any criminal act can be considered racketeering. Some of the most common include:
A fencing racket is a scheme for selling stolen goods. Some fencing rackets are basic, involving nothing more than someone peddling items that “fell off the truck” to shoppers on the street or systematically selling goods to several different pawnbrokers in an area. Others are considerably more elaborate, selling stolen goods through eCommerce sites or legally rented storefronts.
Known as “cons,” “scams,” or “grifts,” confidence tricks involve a racketeer defrauding someone by gaining that person’s trust and abusing it for benefit. A common con is the romance scam in which the racketeer pretends to have romantic intentions towards the victim and then uses that trust to get the victim to provide them with funds, goods, property, or services.
In a blackmail operation, the racketeers use various means to obtain unsavory secrets about their victims. They then threaten to release the information to the victims’ families, friends, business associates, law enforcement, or the general public if they do not pay a specific sum, surrender property or goods, or provide a particular service.
In areas where gambling is illegal, unlicensed bookmaking (bookie) operations are often rackets. The racketeers usually keep a considerably larger portion of the operation’s book than a legal, licensed operator would. As a result, bets that should pay off “even money” typically only pay off at a much lower rate.
Other Types of Racket
The above are only a few of the types of operations that are considered racketeering. Others include:
- Money laundering rackets
- Organized prostitution rings
- Counterfeiting operations
- Corporate or political fraud or corruption
- Bid rigging and price fixing
- Identity theft and other online rackets
What Are the Penalties for Racketeering?
In Georgia, racketeering activities are prosecuted in one of two ways:
- An individual act will be prosecuted under the law governing that specific act – burglary, prostitution, receiving stolen goods, fraud, extortion, etc.
- If more than one act has been committed, the Georgia RICO Act can be invoked, and the prosecution can proceed as a racketeering case.
Individuals found guilty of violating the Georgia RICO Act can expect to spend between 5 and 20 years in prison and a fine ranging from $25,000 to an amount equal to three times the amount of money the racketeer made off of their illegal operation.
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