The Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization law and its companion statute, VICAR (Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering), were originally designed to combat organized crime. Previously, prosecutors had a hard time connecting upper-level mobsters to the crimes their underlings committed on their behalf. But the likes of RICO and VICAR are not targeted only at Fat Tony and his ilk. Pretty much any criminal conspiracy, such as a fraud conspiracy, could fall under RICO. Additionally, prosecutors sometimes use RICO against more informal organizations, like street gangs.
Since prosecutors are so familiar with these laws and the way they apply, you need an equally experienced Orlando RICO & enterprise corruption lawyer from the O’Mara Law Group on your side. These laws are quite complex, and so these prosecutions have a number of moving parts. Our professional team quickly and thoroughly evaluates your case and identifies all possible defenses. Then, when the case goes to court, we never stop fighting for you.
Breaking Down a RICO Claim
This statute is not just a criminal law. There is also a civil component, which is usually used against unscrupulous or negligent businesses. In some cases, treble damages are available. Either the government or a private plaintiff can force the defendant to pay three times the amount of damages.
The burden of proof is much different in criminal and civil court. Prosecutors must establish guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. But in civil court, the burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. So, it might or might not be in the defendant’s best interests to steer a RICO matter to civil court. It’s harder to defend civil cases, but there are no criminal penalties to deal with.
Section 1962(c), which is the most commonly-used criminal law component of RICO, prohibits a “person,” which is usually an organization, from using an unlawful debt collection practice or conducting business through a pattern of racketeering. These prohibited activities are rather ill-defined and could encompass a wide variety of acts.
A RICO conspiracy requires no “meeting of the minds,” or specific agreement on all essential points of the criminal enterprise. Instead, the RICO person must only generally agree with a manager, operator, or other officer who is corrupt under the law.
Prosecutors must establish an ongoing pattern of corruption that was directly related to the enterprise. An “ongoing pattern” implies that there were at least two substantially similar acts which prosecutors can firmly establish in court. Suppositions, speculations, and “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” arguments do not hold up in criminal court. Moreover, the acts might not be sufficiently related to the organization. A grocer’s delivery driver might use heavy-handed debt collection tactics, but these acts are only tangentially related to the grocer’s core business.
An Orlando RICO & enterprise corruption lawyer may use technical defenses as well. These criminal indictments are notoriously lengthy. If prosecutors add wire fraud or other such charges, and they usually do, RICO charging documents are even more intricate. If the government fails to correctly plead an allegation, the judge might throw the case out of court.
Other possible defenses include the single episode rule and the operation and management test. The single episode rule only allows prosecutors to bring multiple charges arising out of one incident in certain cases. The operation and management test requires prosecutors to establish that the RICO defendant personally participated in such activities and didn’t simply sign off on them.
Rely on an Experienced Orange County Lawyer
Criminal accusations do not necessarily lead to criminal convictions. For a confidential consultation with an experienced RICO & enterprise corruption attorney in Orlando, contact the O’Mara Law Group, Attorneys at Law. Convenient payment plans are available.
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