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RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) - Influences

civil criminal forfeiture terms

RICO was little noticed, and little used, in the first ten years after its adoption. During the 1980s, however, as prosecutors and civil plaintiffs discovered its potential, the number of RICO cases increased dramatically. The many successful RICO prosecutions of organized crime figures and corrupt civil servants and businessmen, and the use of civil RICO as a tool of labor law reform, provided significant law enforcement benefits. Moreover, RICO has had an influence in the creation of other laws. The use of forfeiture as a punishment for crime, pioneered in RICO, has been extended more broadly to narcotics and money laundering offenses. The extensive use of RICO forfeiture also led to a renewal of interest in civil forfeiture remedies, which have also been greatly expanded. RICO's original concern with the introduction of criminal proceeds into the legitimate economy was developed further in the money-laundering statutes, which also follow the RICO pattern of using traditional crimes as the predicates for more complex prohibitions. Finally, the increased use of proactive investigative techniques, such as electronic surveillance and infiltration by undercover agents and informants, coupled with RICO prosecutions that present the results of such investigations in full context, has contributed to a more effective understanding of crime in terms of enterprises and criminal careers, rather than simply as isolated instances of illegal behavior.

On the debit side, RICO is complex and overbroad. The private civil action has generated excessive litigation, while having little effect on serious criminal conduct. Because RICO defines its prohibitions not in terms of specific behaviors, but in terms of differing relationships of broad abstract concepts like the "enterprise" and the "pattern of racketeering," its coverage is broad and somewhat elusive. In the area of fraud and corruption cases, the severe penalties and federal jurisdiction provided by RICO can be invoked or declined by prosecutors almost at will. Even with respect to criminal groups, the existence of an organized enterprise, as distinct from shifting combinations of loosely acquainted offenders who join and dissolve to commit ad hoc, opportunistic offenses, is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. It is hardly clear that the severe penalties and dangerous dilutions of traditional procedural rights are justified in all such cases.

RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) - Bibliography [next] [back] RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) - Civil Remedies

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