The term “racketeering” often conjures up images of organized crime. However, many other organizations and individuals have been charged under the RICO Act, including he Hell’s Angels, the Catholic Church, the Police Department of Key West, Florida and Alibaba. Individuals who are charged sometimes aren’t aware they committed a crime until they’re arrested. If you find yourself in this situation, call the Tampa RICO defense attorneys at Joffe Law, P.A. to ensure your rights are protected immediately.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, RICO Act, covers illegal activities, and the charges are brought at the federal level. The original purpose of the RICO Act was to provide leverage against the actions of organized crime, and in the 1970s, was successfully used in cases against Mafia figures. In more recent years, it has been used to bring charges against a variety of other individuals and groups. Often, the prosecution has not been successful in showing that the requirements of racketeering have been met, and the accused have prevailed against the charges. Some of the racketeering crimes covered by RICO are:
Extortion. Through coercion, obtaining property, money, or services from another person or institution is illegal.

  • Bribery. Offering gifts of property or money in exchange for particular influences or treatments can be charged as an illegal act.
  • Illegal gambling. In Florida, casino gambling is allowed on Indian reservations. Betting on horse races is also legal. In addition, the amounts that can be wagered are also limited by Florida laws.
  • Loan sharking. Money loans are generally originated through regulated organizations like banks and other financial institutions. A loan shark is in the same business, but with no restraining lending, interest, and collection policies.
  • Money laundering. Hiding the source of illegally gotten money is a white collar crime. The source of the money is often obscured by setting up a second, legal, cash-based operation.
  • Counterfeiting. Today, designer consumer products are probably more often counterfeited than money. Both types of counterfeiting have been charged in federal courts under the RICO Act.
  • Others. RICO Act lists 35 crimes in total that can be prosecuted as racketeering.
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One of the key characteristics of these activities to fall under the RICO Act is that they must be done as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Ongoing generally means that there were two or more instances of the activity. Another is that it involved interstate or foreign commerce. Federal prosecutors must also prove that the defendant was directly active in, invested in or had an interest in the illegal activity. Here is a look at some racketeering cases that may help you get a better understanding of the law if you are facing charges in Tampa, Hillsborough County or elsewhere in Florida.

  • The Hell’s Angels

    In the late ’70s, federal prosecutors brought charges against the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club in Oakland, California. They tried to prove the members had shown a pattern of RICO offenses related to guns and illegal drugs. The trial resulted in a hung jury because proof was not provided that it was club policy to engage in actions involving guns and illegal drugs.

  • The Catholic Church

    Charges have been brought in Florida, throughout the United States and around the world against alleged abuses by clergy members and cover-ups by higher positions within the Church. In some jurisdictions, RICO has been used to bring charges against the higher-ups in the Catholic organizations. In other cases, RICO has been considered, but charges under the law were not pursued.

  • Key West, Florida Police

    In the mid-1980s, the Key West, FL, Police Department was declared to be a criminal enterprise under the federal RICO Act. Several high-ranking officers of the department were arrested on federal charges of regularly providing protection for illegal cocaine smugglers. During the trial in the federal courts of Florida, a witness testified he had delivered bags of cocaine to the police department office at City Hall. Twelve of the fourteen officers charged were found guilty.

  • Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

    Alibaba is an online selling company that sells more than eBay and Amazon combined. In other words, they were a huge online retail site. A U.S. District Court unsuccessfully tried to show that sellers on the site were an illegal enterprise. The defendant admitted to selling counterfeit goods but showed that these sales are individual transactions and not an illegal enterprise.

As you can see from these examples, proving racketeering charges can be difficult. Joffe Law, P.A. will stand by your side and work tirelessly to defend your case if you have been charged or think you may be charged with any kind of RICO Act violations.

Possible defenses against racketeering charges

At this point, you have probably recognized that the RICO Act coverage is complicated. Racketeering charges can only be defended by a Florida attorney who is familiar with the activities of the Tampa Federal Court and Attorney General’s Office. Joffe Law has knowledge about how RICO charges can be defended. We will make sure that your rights are protected every step along the way of your case. After reviewing the facts of your case, we may help you construct a position that shows you did not commit or conspire to commit the activities that you are charged with. Another successful defense that we might discuss with you is that you were not acting to benefit a criminal enterprise.

Retain a federal defense attorney specializing in white collar crimes

Charges brought against you by the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Tampa in violation of the RICO Act can be very serious. The penalties for this type of white collar crime can be very costly, and the years of imprisonment can be many if you are convicted. This is not a situation to leave in the hands of an inexperienced lawyer. Joffe Law will gather all the details of your case from your perspective and from the U.S. Attorney. Based on your actions and the events leading up to your charges, our staff will research the details and develop workable defense positions. RICO & racketeering charges are tricky and could be difficult to prove. Let a Tampa racketeering lawyer help fight for your rights and your freedom.