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RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act)


RICO's broadest and most-used section prohibits conducting the affairs of any "enterprise" (defined broadly to include just about any form of human endeavor) through a "pattern of racketeering activity" (defined as two or more criminal acts from an extremely broad list, that are related to each other, that do or threaten to persist over a period of time). This language makes it a crime for those with a significant role in operating any business, government office, labor union, social or political organization, or informal grouping to commit a series of crimes in furtherance of that organization's goals or by using the organization's resources. Indeed, since the Supreme Court has held that enterprises are covered whether or not they are legitimate (United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981)), RICO permits the prosecution of members of an organized crime family or other criminal gang or association for conducting its affairs.

Other new crimes created by RICO, which have been rarely used by prosecutors, derive from the original concept of preventing criminal elements from gaining entry into legitimate business. The relevant provisions prohibit acquiring or maintaining an interest in any "enterprise" (other than by purchase of a trivial interest via the stock market), by investing the proceeds of loansharking or a pattern of racketeering activity (for example, investing the profits from narcotics dealing in a legitimate business), or by using such criminal means (for example, by the use of threats of violence to extort an interest in a business from its owner). In addition, RICO also prohibits conspiring to commit any of these new crimes.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawRICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) - Origins, Crimes, Effects, Penalties, Civil Remedies, Influences, Bibliography