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White collar crime: Elements associated with racketeering

When people hear about racketeering, they typically picture mob bosses as portrayed in television programs like “The Sopranos.” Historically, mob activity has played a huge role in American racketeering but this crime in today’s modern environment can also ensnare ordinary people and businesses. Being charged with racketeering or involved in a federal RICO case is serious, and the penalties can affect the rest of your life.

What is racketeering?

The term racketeering comes from phrases such as “running a racket” and involves utilizing legitimate businesses or organizations to illegally appropriate funds. Its foundation in organized crime remains in place as operatives from organized criminal groups may enter into legitimate businesses and work from inside to embezzle funds.

What is the RICO Act?

An acronym for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, the RICO Act is the federal response to the crime of racketeering. Before RICO, prosecutors struggled to put an end to these rackets as the leading operatives were typically safer from prosecution than lower level participants were. The RICO Act gives the prosecution a more efficient way to approach racketeering. Now, instead of directly linking these organized leaders to the crime, prosecutors must only prove the alleged leader runs the organization and that the organization itself routinely engages in illegal behaviors.

The RICO Act has changed the legal landscape in Wisconsin and other states for everyone involved in racketeering. This holds true for the leaders of an organized crime ring down to participants on the lowest level. Often, legitimate business owners and employees can also be implicated in a RICO case, making legal protection paramount to emerging from the ordeal as unscathed as possible.

Source: FindLaw, “Racketeering/RICO” accessed Mar. 03, 2015

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