Virginia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) Attorneys
The terms “racketeering” or “RICO” may conjure up images of large, organized crime cartels. The most common defendant to a civil RICO claim, however, is not an organized crime kingpin but is typically the CEO of a corporation, the controlling shareholder of a closed corporation, the trustee of an estate or trust, or the leader of a politically affiliated group.
The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, otherwise known as RICO, simply refers to the prosecution and defense of individuals who engage in organized crime. While it was originally passed in 1970 in an effort to combat Mafia groups, the law has been expanded to include other behavior associated with a criminal enterprise. The purpose of RICO is not to prohibit conduct which is already illegal. Instead, its purpose is to combat the perceived infiltration of organized crime into legitimate business.
A RICO claim cannot exist in the absence of criminal activity. The statute sets out a list of possible criminal activity to support a RICO claim and refers to that activity as racketeering or a predicate offense. While the RICO Act lists all of the crimes upon which a RICO violation must be predicated, a defendant need not be criminally convicted before a plaintiff can bring a civil RICO action.
The RICO statute provides severe criminal penalties for individuals convicted of various types of criminal conspiracies or organizational activity. In addition to criminal prosecution, however, RICO provides civil claims for private parties who have been victimized by a criminal organization. In civil claims, the burden of proof is less onerous than criminal cases, and a successful civil RICO plaintiff can recover treble damages, or, in other words, three times the amount of money they lost due to the defendant’s actions. This is a huge benefit given to those who have been injured by such activity.
Liability for a civil RICO violation requires that a person be involved in an enterprise that operates through a pattern of racketeering activity. A single criminal act, short-term criminal conduct, or criminal actions that bear no relationship to each other will not give rise to a civil RICO claim.
The specific elements of a civil RICO claim are: (1) conduct, (2) of an enterprise, (3) through a pattern, (4) of racketeering activity, (5) resulting in injury. Even though these elements sound simple, each one has developed its own nuances, subtleties, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions.
Civil RICO cases are often similar to fraud claims where a plaintiff alleges that a business has defrauded them, but the statute can encompass a myriad of other claims. These include
- drug conspiracy and trafficking charges;
- white collar crimes;
- criminal ventures and conspiracies;
- gambling offenses;
- larceny and corruption charges;
- insurance scams by co-conspirators;
- complex financial fraud or bribery schemes;
- weapons trafficking; and
- organized crime offenses.
Civil RICO litigation can be highly technical and complex. Whether you are considering filing a claim against a criminal enterprise or need help defending a case brought against you, the Virginia RICO Attorneys at MartinWren, P.C. can provide insight into the intricate issues involved in racketeering lawsuits. For more information, please contact either John B. Simpson or Robert E. Byrne, Jr. at (434) 817-3100.