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racketeering

In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (US Code-Title 18), or RICO, to provide a powerful tool in the fight against organized crime. Since the mid-1980's, the RICO Act has been applied in circumstances that many believe to be beyond the scope of the act. The RICO Act enables persons financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity to bring a RICO claim in state and federal court, and to obtain damages three times the amount of their actual harm, plus attorneys fees and costs (www.ricoact.com). According to some observers, RICO is the most sweeping statue passed by Congress that attacks the continuity required for organized crime activities (Local Prosecution of Organized Crime).
RICO defines racketeering in an extremely broad manner, which continually causes problems. It includes many offenses that do not ordinarily violate any federal statute. "Any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion or dealing in narcotic or other dangerous drugs, which is chargeable under state law and punishable by imprisonment for more that one year." In addition there is a laundry list of federal offenses that are defined as racketeering including, but not limited to, white slavery (man act violations), obscenity, loan sharking, sports bribery and contra-ban cigarettes (Abadinsky, pg 400).
Under RICO, an enterprise can be a legitimate or wholly illegitimate organization or any group of individuals associated in fact. A pattern of racketeering activity was defined as any two, of a long list, of federal or state crimes.RICO made it possible to bring to a single trial whole criminal groups and families – all those defendants who participated in the affairs of the same criminal enterprise. RICO's penalties are substantial. In addition to twenty-year maximum for violation of both the substantive and the forfeiture of the defendant's …

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