RICO Charges

RICO Act Federal Defense Attorney

RICO was enacted in 1970 and signed into law by President Nixon. It is the Organized Crime Control Act aimed at stamping out criminal organizations and gang-type behavior in today's world. The federal government has used it over the years to stop those individuals using force, violence, or threats of violence to run organizations that make illegal money in some way.

RICO is a federal statute called the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. It's part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.

The United States Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The RICO Act intended to prosecute organized crime, specifically the Mafia. Still, now it is used to go after individuals and business entities engaged in acts of racketeering, such as operating an illegal business or illegal services to make a profit.

Before RICO, only the individuals of crime organizations who committed illegal could be arrested, indicted, and convicted. This meant the members in positions of authority could not typically face prosecution. 

If you are found guilty under the RICO Act, you may face up to 20 years in prison and must forfeit all properties and the interest in business gained due to the violation. However, if the RICO violation is based on a crime for which the maximum penalty is a life sentence, a life sentence may also be imposed. To be found guilty of violating the RICO statute, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • You were associated with an existing enterprise that affected interstate commerce,
  • That you were engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity of at least two acts within ten years of each other.

Gang Activity and Rico Charges

The usual area that I see RICO being used at the federal level in today's society is gang activity across the nation. Racketeering is a federal crime under 18 U.S.C 1961, not just a single event. Instead, it usually appears in the environment of organized crime–gangs, gambling rings, mafia, etc. The Hobbs Act prohibits extortion or robbery by use of force affecting interstate commerce.

What we've seen here in Los Angeles and other parts of the country is that these gangs have taken over communities with:

  • Drug trafficking,
  • Extortion,
  • Money laundering,
  • Kidnapping,
  • Robbery,
  • Gun activity,
  • Violent crimes,
  • Murder,
  • Intimidating witnesses.

The federal government has come in, surveilled the gangs, and within a short period, they will try to arrest everyone in the gang simultaneously and bring them to justice. But, then, take them out of the community and try to put them in federal prison many times for the rest of their lives, depending on the type of activity they're involved in. 

I'm seeing this RICO violation being used because they come in, arrest all gang members, charge them with RICO violations, and charge them with guns.

If there are murders involved, attempted murder – and they charge them with enough firepower, especially the higher-up gang members, where if they don't work out some deal and cooperate with the government, they're put in federal prison for the rest of their lives.

Prosecution of RICO Charges

Some of these drug laws, when combined with weapon violations and RICO allegations, can carry some tough time – ten, twenty, or thirty years in federal prison at 85%.  So, the feds have effectively wiped out many gangs that have plagued communities. Other federal offenses include the following:

  • Wire fraud,
  • Mail fraud,
  • Bank fraud,
  • Embezzlement,
  • Securities fraud,
  • Bribery,
  • Counterfeiting,
  • Counterfeit currency,
  • Theft from interstate shipping. 

So, suppose you're charged in an indictment, and you're charged with a RICO violation. In that case, there's a whole list of people in your indictment; you better get a good attorney quick who has handled these types of cases before and can hopefully segregate you from some of these other more dangerous individuals that the federal government is going to target and try to put away for a long time.

Suppose you're at the top of the indictment and considered one of the major players in the federal RICO organization. In that case, you will want to defend yourself with the best federal criminal defense attorney.

Because the government will have the best prosecutors and the best FBI or federal agents to investigate and prosecute the case, you will need a good defense attorney who can challenge the evidence they have against you. 

They often don't have the best evidence against some higher-ups because many are not getting their hands dirty regarding some criminal activity associated with a RICO violation.

Specializing in Racketeering Defense

Those charged with a racketeering-type offense will usually be charged at the federal level. So that's where that racketeering statute comes in and is used to capture individuals dealing with large quantities of drugs, money, and guns.

Typically, they will also try to throw a net over gang members.  That's a big thing in Los Angeles' Central District, where these gang members shoot and kill people.

They are also dealing drugs and moving guns, and what happens is the state government does not have the resources to prosecute and effectively deal with the problems associated with gang members’ activities, not only at the state level but at the federal level, meaning these entities are traveling from state to state and committing crimes.

So, this racketeering law is meant to capture these people and charge them with crimes related to these violent offenses where witnesses are killed, drugs are moved in and out of prisons – a whole host of things going on. So, you want to get an attorney:

  • That has the experience,
  • Knows how to defend these cases,
  • Knows how to win them if the government does not have evidence against you, and
  • If they have evidence against you, know how to mitigate these racketeering cases.

Typically, the type of evidence the government will use in these cases is wiretap evidence, where they will get a search warrant to listen to one or multiple phones. So you might now even have your phone tapped, but you may talk to somebody who's got a wiretap on their phone, and now you're in the mix.

The government is listening to your conversation, especially when drugs are being moved; they like to pull people over who are the mules carrying these drugs, arrest them, and take the drugs away from them after they track on the wiretap that there's going to be drugs moved or delivered. Then they will typically just let the person go if they're not ready to arrest everybody. 

Because they arrest that person, they file a case against that person in court, then that person's attorney will be entitled to all of the discovery related to the case. The problem with that is then that person will get it, and they will tell the other people what's going on, and now the shop is closed up.

They can't catch all the other individuals involved, especially the higher-ranking members of a particular conspiracy engaged in selling drugs, moving guns, and other criminal activities. 

Why You Need An Experienced Federal Criminal Attorney

The RICO statute is highly complex. If you are being charged under RICO, you must hire a skilled defense attorney; at the Hedding Law Firm, we have the federal and criminal background that gives us unmatched credentials. 

A RICO violation can result in many years in federal prison, excessive fines, and other negative consequences. Common defenses to federal racketeering charges include the following:

  • You did not conspire to commit the crimes,
  • Your acts were not criminal,
  • Mistaken identity,
  • There is no pattern of racketeering activity, 
  • You did not knowingly act intending to participate in criminal activity.

If multiple defendants are charged with federal racketeering, perhaps we can show they are not a criminal enterprise but a loose association of individuals. Maybe we can argue you weren't acting on behalf of a criminal enterprise or that the evidence being used against you was obtained through an illegal search and seizure.

If the prosecution can't show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a criminal enterprise ordered or directed illegal activity, federal racketeering charges cannot apply to the case. However, if you are under investigation or indicted for federal RICO charges, early intervention by our firm can impact the outcome.

What I do is I have you come in, we sit down and go over everything, or I visit your loved one in custody in the federal lock-up and hopefully get some information before I see them. So we sit down and go over everything.

Once we've gone over everything and we have a good feel for what type of evidence the government has and whether the RICO violations are valid charges or whether they're inflated charges, then we set about putting together a strategy and a plan on how to defend you, your interests, your freedom, and your reputation from these charges.

I encourage all my clients to be honest and give me a complete account.  Of course, it's protected by the attorney-client privilege, but this way, I can give you an idea of what you're up against, what you can do to help me, and what I'm going to do to help you if you're charged with federal RICO violations. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.

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