What is RICO and What Does it have to do with Racketeering?: Federal Attorney Explains RICO Act & Racketeering

What is RICO?

the photo shows money covered in bubbles and suds to illustrate money laundering which can be a common component of a RICO and Racketeering crime

RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. 

Signed into law by U.S. President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, the RICO Act was created to combat organized crime. Its biggest intention was to target racketeering and leaders of large groups who would order others to commit heinous acts. 

Originally, the federal RICO Act was to be used against Mafia bosses or captains. Its application has been more widespread for numerous crimes, however, for both illegal and legal enterprises.  

What is Federal Racketeering?

Racketeering is a federal criminal act that commonly accompanies extortion. Racketeering “is the act of acquiring a business through illegal activity, operating a business with illegal-derived income, or using a business to commit illegal acts,” according to Shobhit Seth from Investopedia.

Even if you are not directly participating in the illegal act, it is still illegal to participate or conspire with the business that is committing the crime. Rackets, or organized groups that engage in illegal businesses, can partake in illegal industries such as child pornography, human trafficking, drug trafficking, weapon smuggling, and/or counterfeiting. In addition, rackets may use funds from legal businesses for illegal practices.  

What is Extortion?

Extortion is a criminal offense in which force or threats are made to compel another individual or business to provide money, in a way that goes against the public official’s duty or job. 

Examples of extortion include blackmail, threats, and cyber extortion. Recently, cyber extortion has become more frequent in the 21st century. It occurs when hackers hold your personal data via phone or computer device and threaten to release or erase any private information unless a payment of money is made, or an exchange of credit card information is provided. Cyber extortion can be practiced with the use of computer engineering, malware, ransomware, trojans, cyberstalking, phishing emails, identity theft, viruses, and much more (Panda Security, 2021).

How Does Extortion Relate to Federal Racketeering Crimes?

Extortion relates to racketeering since a criminal offense using force or threats must be issued upon public officials to exploit legal business. 

This can then be used in illegal organizations called rackets, for all purposes of gaining funds in an illegal manner. A perfect example of both extortion and racketeering is when grand theft or larceny is committed with a firearm present, and the stolen goods are then sold to legal businesses to either be used by the business itself such as car parts, or to be sold to public citizens such as a pawn shop.  

Examples of Racketeering may Include:

Penalties of Federal RICO and Racketeering Crimes

With each count of racketeering, an individual can receive 20 years of federal prison time if convicted.

In addition, if the actual crime itself is punishable with life imprisonment, then the racketeering offense is also punishable with a life-in-federal-prison sentence. 

When it comes to fines, the court can charge the defendant with twice their illegal proceeds. Also, the RICO Act “permits forfeiture of any assets earned or maintained through racketeering” (Mince-Didier, 2021). 

Any land, vehicles, or items that were owned by the defendant must be seized by the court system. Upon the civil side, the defendant can also be sued by plaintiffs that suffered from financial harm.

Free Racketeering and RICO Defense Strategy Session in South Florida  

If you want attorneys who will work day and night to construct an aggressive defense that is unique to your individual case, contact us. We have experience in all types of Federal Racketeering and Rico cases and will gladly tackle your case to make sure you face as few criminal charges as possible.

We offer FREE consultations (we call them strategy sessions) so you know how we’ll work to get the best possible result on your case for you.

Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation for your federal case:


Rossen Law Firm helped a man avoid minimum prison time for a Federal Child Porn possession charge in South Florida.