Understanding the Basics of Florida’s Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Statute

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1st Jun 2015

The federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, passed in 1970, were enacted to fight organized crime in the United States. The government enacted the RICO Act out of a growing fear of organized mob crimes infiltrating unions and companies. The RICO Act provides both civil and criminal penalties for anyone who conducts or participates in an enterprise through a “pattern of racketeering activity.”

In addition to the federal RICO Act, various states, including Florida, have passed their own versions that track the language of the federal RICO Act.

Cause of Action Under Florida’s RICO Act

Under Florida’s RICO Act, it is unlawful for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in such enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity or the collection of an unlawful debt. An enterprise is defined as an ongoing organization, formal or informal, with a common purpose of engaging in a course of conduct, which functions as a continuing unit. Essentially, the term ”racketeering activity” means to commit, to attempt to commit, to conspire to commit, or to solicit, coerce, or intimidate another person to commit one of the crimes listed in the Act, such as ones relating to gambling, homicide, or fraud.

Additionally, a “pattern of racketeering activity” is defined as requiring “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within 10 years (excluding any period of imprisonment) after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” Finally, in order to convict a person under the Act, the State must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Potential Civil and Criminal Penalties

Under Florida’s RICO Act, there are both civil and criminal penalties upon conviction. A person convicted under the Act is guilty of a felony of the first degree and may receive a jail sentence of up to 30 years. In addition, a court may impose a criminal penalty requiring an individual to pay a fine of up to three times the amount gained or three times the value of the personal injury or property damage or other loss caused.

 In addition to criminal penalties, Florida’s RICO Act also authorizes courts to impose civil penalties. Notably, a court can order:

  • A divestiture in any interest in any enterprise, including real property;
  • Reasonable restrictions upon the future activities or investments;
  • The dissolution or reorganization of any enterprise; or
  • The suspension or revocation of a license, permit, or prior approval granted to any enterprise by any agency of the State.

Further, a court can seize property and dispose of any property seized. Given the potential significant criminal and civil penalties under Florida’s RICO Act, it is important to have a highly experienced and qualified criminal attorney represent an individual facing such charges.

Contact Our Experienced Florida White Collar Criminal Defense Attorneys

If you have been charged with a crime under the federal or State RICO Act, it is important to reach out to an experienced Florida RICO defense attorney who can help protect your rights. South Florida criminal defense attorney Scott B. Saul has extensive experience representing criminal defendants charged under the RICO Act. If you need criminal defense representation, contact our Florida criminal defense attorneys today at (305- 326-9901).