Federal RICO Defense Lawyer
Have you been indicted on federal RICO charges in Los Angeles? Contact the experienced Los Angeles federal criminal defense attorneys at the Rodriguez Law Group for immediate assistance. An aggressive defense is the only way to protect yourself from serious penalties, including decades behind bars. Our RICO defense lawyers will put together a dynamic defense strategy and fight to prosecution at every turn.
Your first consultation is free, so give our Los Angeles law office a call to schedule yours today.
What Are RICO Charges?
RICO is a federal law that stands for Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. It’s part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.
Before RICO, only the members of crime organizations who actually carried out criminal activities could be arrested, charged, and convicted. That meant that individuals – usually members higher up in the chain of command – who ordered or orchestrated crimes couldn’t be prosecuted.
Now the federal government has the power to charge anyone who belongs to or participates in a criminal enterprise with racketeering activity.
What is a Criminal Enterprise?
Under RICO, you must be “employed by or associated with” an enterprise to face criminal charges. An enterprise is defined broadly to include “any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity.”
More simply, a criminal enterprise can be any collection of individuals working together for a common goal. Examples might include:
- The Mafia
- Street gangs, and
- Drug cartels.
However, in reality, an enterprise can include more innocuous groups, like businesses, political organizations, political campaigns, and even police departments. In fact, the co-conspirators in the recent college admissions scandal were even considered an enterprise for RICO purposes.
What is Racketeering?
When you hear the term RICO, you might automatically think of racketeering. The two actually go hand-in-hand. That’s because, under RICO, it is “unlawful for anyone employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.”
What does it mean to engage in a pattern of racketeering activity? Basically, you have to commit at least two crimes within a 10-year period. The crimes must be related, have similar purposes, and pose a “threat of continued criminal activity.”
Not just any crimes will count toward a pattern of racketeering activity. Rather, there’s a list of 35 federal offenses and 8 state crimes – known as “predicate offenses” that can lead to a RICO charge. These include:
- Drug crimes
- Human trafficking
- Illegal gambling
- Illegal immigration assistance
- Mail fraud
- Money laundering
- Obstruction of justice
- Securities fraud
- Sexual exploitation of children
- Sports bribery
- Theft of property during interstate transportation, and
- Wire fraud.
Under RICO, it’s not just the members who actually carry out and commit these offenses who can face criminal charges. The law also allows the government to prosecute anyone in the criminal enterprise who might be associated with the offenses.
What Does the Government Have to Prove in a RICO Case?
In any criminal case, the government has the burden of proving that a defendant is guilty of a specific offense. Different crimes have different elements. Each of the elements of an offense must be proven.
If you’ve been indicted on federal RICO act charges, the government must prove:
- An enterprise existed
- The enterprise affected interstate commerce
- You were associated with or employed by the enterprise
- You engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity, and
- You conducted or participated in the conduct of the enterprise through that pattern of racketeering activity through the commission of at least two acts of racketeering activity as set forth in the indictment.
In other words, you organized or committed at least two crimes (as discussed above) in furtherance of an illegal criminal enterprise.
What Are the Penalties Associated With a RICO Conviction?
RICO violations can have immediate and long-lasting consequences, including:
- 20 years in federal prison, and
- $25,000 in fines.
That’s the penalty for each individual count of racketeering charges. So, you could potentially face decades behind bars if you’re convicted on multiple counts.
In addition to imprisonment and fines, you can also be forced to forfeit any assets that were secured as a result of criminal activity or on behalf of the enterprise. In many RICO cases, federal prosecutors ask a court to authorize an order to seize a defendant’s assets early-on in the process in an effort to avoid a rushed liquidation.
Additionally, anyone harmed by a criminal enterprise can file a civil lawsuit for damages. So, in addition to having your assets seized, you might be required to pay substantial compensation to victims of a scheme.
Defending RICO Charges
RICO cases are tried by prosecutors with specialized legal training and extensive experience handling cases involving organized crime. Your future will hinge on the strength of the defense you can put forward.
At the Rodriguez Law Group, our attorneys have decades of combined experience handling federal criminal matters, including RICO cases. And, our team is led by Ambrosio Rodriguez, who, prior to becoming a defense lawyer, spent 13 years as a prosecutor. Knowing how the prosecution thinks and how they’ll build a case is invaluable. We draw on that experience and insight every single day as we represent our clients in federal court.
Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys will carefully investigate all aspects of your alleged pattern of racketeering activity. We’ll subpoena documents and parties, interview witnesses, research RICO case law, and comb through every single piece of paper the prosecution sends over during the discovery phase. We’ll bring in RICO experts to help us really understand your case and help us identify potential weaknesses in the government’s case.
Our detailed and thorough efforts will help us craft a dynamic and aggressive defense strategy just for you. Defenses that might be raised in your RICO case can include:
- There’s no enterprise
- An enterprise existed, but did not have an effect on interstate commerce
- You were not associated with or employed by an enterprise
- You did not commit or organize two predicate acts within a 10-year period
- The predicate acts were not related, or
- The predicate offenses weren’t committed to further the enterprise.
Additionally, we will scrutinize how the government has handled your case. We’ll search for any indication that your rights have been violated. If your arrest was unlawful or you were the victim of an illegal search and seizure, the evidence in your case might be tainted. We’ll bring that argument to the court and petition to have evidence – or your entire case – thrown out. Without evidence, the federal prosecutors overseeing your RICO case might have to consider a plea or drop the charges altogether.
Our goal is not just to find ways to prove that you’re not guilty. Our goal is also to undermine the government’s case at every turn. We’ll do everything to make the prosecution’s job as difficult as humanly possible.
Schedule a Call With Our Federal RICO Defense Attorneys Today
Federal racketeering charges are incredibly serious. These cases also tend to be very complicated. The government will try to use confusion to its advantage. Don’t let it. Call the Rodriguez Law Group and level the playing field. Bring in our experienced RICO defense attorneys and let us handle things.
We’ll speak with investigators and the prosecution on your behalf. We’ll negotiate and help you understand the benefits and drawbacks of any deals the government extends. If your case goes to court, our accomplished trial lawyers will work diligently to sway a jury and get a not guilty verdict. We’ve done it before, and we’ll fight to do it for you, too.
We offer a free initial case assessment, so don’t hesitate to give our Los Angeles, CA law firm a call today.