Racketeering is a broad term for street gangs or cartels committing criminal acts in Minnesota. These criminal enterprises use extortion and intimidation to get money from the public. This definition is not, however, limited to gangs, because legitimate businesses engage in racketeering through fraud, bribery, and other acts.
The broad meaning of racketeering is intentionally created by the U.S. government. The government aims to put schemes and organized crime in one category to make charging the perpetrators easier. In the past, one had to be charged individually and for a specific crime.
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What Is Racketeering?
Racketeering is a criminal offense committed for financial gain using threats and other acts of violence. The Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act considers a long list of 35 predicate crimes as racketeering. A racketeer is a person who has committed at least two of these crimes through an enterprise within the last ten years.
The RICO Act, passed in 1970, is a law seeking to help curb soaring organized crime in the U.S. Before this law came to be, prosecutors could not link gang leaders to the crimes done by members of their gangs. Today, the Act has evolved and is used to prosecute other kinds of criminals, not just organized gangs.
An enterprise must be involved to charge someone under RICO. You cannot violate or be charged under RICO if operating as an individual. The enterprise can be a drug cartel, crime family, street gang, political party, corporation, or a managed care company.
Under RICO Act, prosecutors must prove these four things for you to get convicted of racketeering:
- The existence of a criminal enterprise
- You are associated with the criminal enterprise
- The enterprise you work with affected trading between two or more states
- You engaged in two or more racketeering crimes
You might get convicted if your case meets these four requirements. A felony lawyer will also use these requirements to build a solid defense when representing you. If your lawyer proves beyond a reasonable doubt that your case does not meet these four requirements, the court might dismiss the case or order the prosecution to drop the charges.
What Are the Minnesota Racketeering Laws?
Besides the federal racketeering laws, there are specific state laws that cover racketeering. If you are a Minnesota resident, this section will help you understand the state’s specific laws that criminalize racketeering. It is a summarized version of the actual law text that is often long and filled with legal jargon.
What Does Minnesota Law Consider Racketeering?
A crime will only be considered racketeering in Minnesota if:
- The perpetrator is employed or associated with a criminal enterprise; or
- The accused takes part in a pattern of criminal activities planned within the state by the enterprise; or
- The person knowingly invests the proceeds derived from criminal activities done by the enterprise.
What Are the Penalties for Racketeering in Minnesota?
The criminal penalties for this crime include imprisonment of up to 20 years and a fine of up to $1 million. If the perpetrator made economic gains from the crime or caused an injury, he or she will pay a fine thrice the gains made or loss caused. The fine will include investigation, court, and prosecution costs.
Those are the important things to note about the Minnesota racketeering laws. However, state laws can change anytime. The changes arise after new legislation enactment or higher courts issue new rulings.
Hire a criminal defense attorney if you are facing racketeering charges or law enforcement officers are investigating you for the same in Minnesota or at the federal level. Working with an attorney familiar with the RICO Act and with an excellent success rate of representing racketeering criminal defendants can increase your likelihood of winning your case. The lawyer will use his or her experience in defending criminal defendants against organized crime charges to build a strong defense strategy on your behalf.
The Consequences of Racketeering: The RICO Act
The RICO Act was enacted to help halt organized crime, which was rising by 1970. This law has changed how organized gangs are prosecuted. It is now possible to charge an entire criminal gang in court.
The government found prosecuting individuals, rather than a whole racket, daunting. Also, it was tricky to charge an individual not found committing a racketeering offense, even if the individual aided it. So, the aim of enacting the RICO Act was to introduce strict laws that would punitively punish criminal gangs.
RICO has made the consequences of belonging to a criminal enterprise more dire. Every count of racketeering attracts up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 per count.
Also, it is now possible to prosecute criminal gang leaders even if they do not get caught committing a crime. Ordering or coercing others to commit a crime is now punishable under the RICO Act. All that prosecutors need to do is to prove an individual’s affiliation to the enterprise and his or her contribution.
Examples of Racketeering
Racketeering can take different forms, including:
In 1992, racketeering charges were filed against the leader of the Gambino crime family, John Gotti. He also faced other charges, which included murder and conspiracy to commit racketeering. He was convicted alongside Frank Locascio, who faced six murder charges, illegal gambling, and tax fraud.
They were both sentenced to life imprisonment after the government proved their association with a criminal enterprise. The sentence did not include a possibility for parole for murder and racketeering. All the other counts they faced attracted concurrent 10-year sentences, and they both paid a $250 000 fine.
The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating certain companies and even issued subpoenas against those companies. Citron Research and Muddy Waters Research LLC are some firms on the list. They face racketeering charges involving manipulative trading and money laundering.
RICO provides authorities with the power to file racketeering cases against these firms. There are few options for prosecutors, especially when reviewing federal laws. RICO allows the U.S. government to investigate and charge firms it suspects of engaging in criminal enterprise activities.
RICO has undoubtedly had a massive impact on racketeering convictions and prosecution. Besides white-collar crimes, the act applies to other crimes.
Federal vs. State Racketeering Offenses
There are a few differences between federal and state racketeering offenses. If you commit an offense and get arrested, the government will first determine whether what you did is a federal or state offense. This will dictate where your case will get heard; it can be a federal- or state-level court.
Another difference between federal and state offenses lies in the investigation. If your crime violates federal laws, then it’ll be investigated by the highest investigating authorities. They include the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service, and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
On the other hand, a crime that violates state laws gets investigated by relevant state departments. The county police are an example of the authorities investigating crimes at the state level. Some crimes that belong here include robbery, kidnapping, and assault, but they must happen within the particular state.
Is Racketeering a Felony?
Federal courts treat racketeering as a felony when charging perpetrators under RICO. Several crimes fall under racketeering, and you can get charged for any of them. They include committing, attempting, conspiring, or intentionally aiding an individual or enterprise to commit a racketeering offense.
It also includes coercing or forcing someone else to commit a racketeering crime. Under these categories is a long list of felonies the prosecutors could use to charge you in court. These offenses range from illegal gambling to extortion, drug and weapon trafficking, prostitution, to assault and murder.
In addition, many people compare racketeering with money laundering or use them interchangeably. Racketeering is broader than money laundering. The latter can fall into the racketeering category if it entails an enterprise cleaning dirty money to make it look legitimately earned.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a Racketeering-Related Offense?
Facing 20 or more years behind bars can be daunting. The fines imposed on people convicted of racketeering offenses are not light, either. You might have difficulty paying them if convicted of several counts.
If you are facing a racketeering charge in a Minnesota or federal court, the best thing to do is to get the charges thrown out. There is no better way to do this than by hiring a seasoned attorney to take charge of your case. A good lawyer will help you build a robust defense against the charges. The seriousness of racketeering charges makes experience and success rate essential factors to consider when hiring a lawyer.