Racketeering is a scary-sounding charge. Many people do not even know what it means, which makes it even more intimidating.
Racketeering is a charge with broad applications. Penalties for conviction include fines amounting to thousands of dollars and possible prison terms. CNN explains some of the most important things to know about racketeering.
1. Racketeering is a federal offense
Abbreviated RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a federal law that passed in 1970. The government investigates and prosecutes racketeering charges according to the provisions set forth in RICO.
2. Racketeering does not occur in a vacuum
RICO describes 35 different offenses that can be a part of a racketeering charge. Prosecutors have to prove that the individual facing charges engaged in at least two activities included in RICO as part of a single scheme or criminal enterprise to obtain a conviction on racketeering charges.
For this reason, racketeering charges never occur alone. The individual also faces charges related to the other activities.
3. Racketeering has to affect interstate commerce
Offenses that can lead to a racketeering charge include extortion and bribery as well as violent crimes, such as murder or kidnapping. However, RICO requires that the offenses had to have been part of a scheme to affect interstate commerce for racketeering charges to apply. Interstate commerce refers to the exchange of money or goods across state lines.
Therefore, a person cannot face racketeering charges for a single alleged offense, even if it falls under RICO. Similarly, two or more alleged RICO offenses cannot result in racketeering charges if there is no criminal enterprise or scheme to affect interstate commerce.