RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. It is a complex federal law that pursues the activities of criminal organizations. One of the things that makes RICO unusual is that in addition to an enterprise being vulnerable to criminal action by the government, individuals are also able to pursue civil actions under a reduced burden of proof. Where government actions can lead to jail time, a successful lawsuit claiming civil fraud and RICO violations can result in the plaintiff receiving triple damages.
Racketeering under the terms of RICO consists of having committed at least two acts out of a list of 35 crimes defined as racketeering activity within a 10-year period. Though the list of crimes is broad, in most cases successful RICO lawsuits involve bribes, kickbacks, threats or commissions of violence, and what makes these crimes RICO violations is that they are committed in relation to an enterprise. When a private individual files a civil fraud RICO claim, they need to prove that the defendants have a relationship with an identified enterprise, either through investment of the results of their activity in the enterprise, acquiring interest in the enterprise with the results of their activity, participating in the affairs of the enterprise through their activity, or conspiring to do any of these.
One recent example of a civil RICO case involved a lawsuit that was filed against Donald Trump before he became president. The case was a class-action lawsuit that involved Trump University and accused Mr. Trump of having misrepresented what people were being paid money for. Though the case was settled out of court for $25 million and with no admission of wrongdoing, it provides a relatively easy-to-understand case of how individuals can pursue a person (in this case, Donald Trump) being accused of being associated fraudulently with an enterprise (Trump University) and causing harm to individual plaintiffs (those who paid tuition).
Civil RICO lawsuits have extremely particular requirements and can be quite complicated. In order to prove guilt there are many things that need to be proven, including a pattern of wrongdoing with a goal shared by all members of the enterprise. In order to be successful, it is essential that your attorney is experienced and has comprehensive knowledge of these laws. If you believe that you have been the victim of a RICO violation and would like information on pursuing a civil fraud case under RICO, contact the law firm of Bochetto & Lentz today to set up an appointment.