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What does RICO mean?

Often times, Tampa criminal defense lawyers are asked specifically what RICO means in a criminal context. RICO is used frequently in the news and in movies, but very rarely is it adequately defined. Simply put, it stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Florida’s RICO Statute is a chapter, rather than a specific statute, we provided a link to the Chapter.   This is a Federal law and a civil cause of action which was created solely to pursue criminal organizations throughout the United States. It intended to prosecute leaders of criminal organizations who previously were not able to be prosecuted because they didn’t undertake direct actions related to the crime. For example, they may have ordered or encouraged someone to commit a murder or robbery, but they didn’t provide the gun, direct guidance or supervision during the act, or actually take part in the murder or burglary. Prior to RICO it was almost impossible for these folks to be prosecuted.  Initially, RICO began solely as a federal criminal cause of action, it is now being used in Florida state courts by statewide prosecutors.

This act specifically goes after those people who in some capacity were creating an environment or simply encouraging in a passive manner to commit these acts. It is believed the act was intended to go after the American Mafia. It attempted to go after the leaders of these syndicates who were perceived at the time to be above regular, classic criminal prosecution and continued increasing the power of these organizations.

These actions have been filed against a variety of groups, including the Catholic Church relating to sex abuse cases, the street gang The Latin Kings, and the American mob. Also, in another odd twist, RICO was used to prosecute Scott W. Rothstein. As you may recall, Mr. Rothstein was an attorney in South Florida who allegedly used a Ponzi scheme to fund his law firm, lifestyle, political donations, etc. This goes to show ultimately that RICO is a powerful tool for prosecutors and civil attorneys to use in a civil setting to go after and prosecute leaders of organizations, rather than lower level, ordinary foot soldiers in these organizations. In some regards RICO has almost endless possibilities.

Ultimately, RICO cases are very dangerous for criminal defendants as a criminal defendant can be prosecuted for something they had no idea had occurred and ultimately they are imputed with allegations and charges from other individuals similarly to the felon murder rule in Florida.  RICO cases also carry significant criminal sanctions, including lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines.  These cases require an aggressive Tampa criminal defense lawyers to protect your rights.

If you have any questions about RICO prosecutions and/or its use in a civil setting, contact the Tampa criminal defense lawyers of Hackworth Law for a free case consultation. We’ll be more than happy to discuss this unique act with you and provide our regarding your case. We appreciate your time in reviewing our Tampa criminal defense lawyer blog and look forward to working with you in the future.