RICO was enacted in response to the threat to the American economy from the unfettered growth of organized crime. RICO was intended to assist in remedying the inhabitation of the development of admissible evidence necessary to bring criminal charges against individuals involved in organized crime. The United States Congress enacted RICO in the hope that it would in part permit prosecutors to revitalize corrupted interstate enterprises into legal businesses.
The basis of a RICO offense stems from the commission of two specified acts or the commission of the same act twice within a 10-year time frame. Prohibited racketeering activities under the Act include, but not limited to:
- Theft from interstate shipments.
- Extortionate credit transactions.
- Mail fraud.
- Transference of gambling information.
- Wire fraud.
- Unlawful welfare fund payments.
- Interstate transportation of property.
- Trafficking counterfeit goods or property.
- Embezzlement from union funds.
- Fraud offenses connected with the sale of securities or buying or selling narcotics.
If the defendant is convicted of racketeering he may be sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The defendant may also be sentenced to life in prison, if life imprisonment is an option for the offenses committed. Forfeiture is also a common penalty assessed with respect to a RICO conviction. RICO permits the forfeiture of:
- Any interest the defendant acquired or maintained contrary to RICO.
- Any interest or claim in property or in a contract that afforded the defendant the source of influence over the criminal enterprise.