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Frequently Asked Questions (RICO)

Below are some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about RICO charges and investigations.

What is a RICO enterprise? How difficult is it to prove one exists?

RICO’s definition of enterprise broadly encompasses many types of organizations, ranging from hierarchal groups to loosely associated groups of individuals and corporations who act with a common purpose and function as a continuing unit. The typical proof of an enterprise would come from documents, testimony, and an examination of what the group does. A RICO enterprise also may be a legal entity and proof of such an entity is usually straightforward based on documents.

What is “racketeering activity?”

Racketeering activity includes specifically enumerated federal crimes and certain state offenses which identify “generically” the kind of conduct proscribed by RICO. The federal offenses include commonly alleged offenses including drug trafficking, bribery, mail and wire fraud, bank fraud, extortion, and money laundering. Generic state offenses include bribery offenses, which commonly serve as predicate crimes for racketeering indictments against state and local officials for corruption.

I have heard the term “pattern of racketeering activity (PORA)” but what does that mean?

To prove PORA, the plaintiff must show that the activity is both “related” and “continuous.” Generally, the “relationship” prong is more easily proven, while the “continuity” prong may be proven in several ways but may present complex questions in civil RICO litigation.

What is the most common RICO charge or claim?

Typically, the government and private claimants allege that a RICO defendant conducted or participated in the conduct of the affairs of an enterprise through a PORA [section 1962c], or conspired to do so [section 1962d]. There are less common uses of the RICO statute, including the allegation that a person participated in the affairs of an enterprise through the collection of unlawful debt, and the acquiring of interests in enterprises through racketeering activity or with racketeering income [sections 1962(a) and (b)].

Is the RICO conspiracy section [1962d] very broad? How would I defend against a RICO conspiracy claim?

RICO conspiracy provisions are essentially the same as traditional conspiracy provisions. Although there is no requirement that a RICO defendant actually commit any racketeering activity, the government or plaintiff must still prove the defendant agreed that either he or she, or a co-conspirator, would conduct and participate in the affairs of the enterprise through a PORA.

Are there differences in alleging a civil RICO action versus alleging RICO in a criminal indictment?

A civil plaintiff will still have to prove the basic elements required in the RICO statute, including “person,” enterprise, pattern of racketeering activity, etc. Although the standard of proof in a civil action is preponderance of the evidence, the civil RICO plaintiff must additionally prove “causation,” injury to business or property, and he or she is subject to a more rigorous statute of limitations.

Has RICO ever been alleged in class action litigation?

Yes, RICO claims are alleged in class action litigation, and are subject to the same requirements of proof when alleged as a claim in class action litigation. Courts have upheld RICO claims in complex nationwide class action litigation.