Naples Racketeering (RICO) Defense Lawyer
Our federal criminal attorneys stand ready
to represent you in Collier County, Florida
When the federal government created the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in 1970, the law was designed to enable greater prosecution of crime bosses who ran crime organizations or rackets. Known as RICO, the law empowers federal authorities to prosecute people who order others to commit crimes as part of an ongoing criminal enterprise. Racketeering charges are frequently applied in addition to other criminal charges stemming from a crime operation. This situation creates a complex situation with the potential to end with harsh penalties. For this reason, the development of a defense strategy may rely on the guidance of a Naples racketeering attorney.
A simple explanation of racketeering is difficult because it can describe many types of criminal situations. Discussing rackets as they occurred historically under the leadership of gangsters can be helpful. Consider the example of a protection racket. A crime organization collects protection money from businesses in a certain area to protect them from robberies, vandalism or other criminal attacks. However, not paying the protection racket would cause the racketeers to commit crimes against a nonpaying business.
Although obviously criminal rackets persist, such as sex trafficking rings, racketeering cases these days frequently involve white collar crimes like embezzlement and money laundering. Leaders of corporations that are legitimate businesses may also be revealed to be racketeers. They could be embezzling money from the business or participating in money laundering operations.
RICO could potentially be used against people accused of:
- drug trafficking
- money laundering
- loan sharking
- illegal gambling
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Federal and state criminal laws
RICO represents the federal level criminal laws. They carry heavy penalties for the purpose of penalizing criminal leaders. Conviction on a single RICO charge could produce a prison sentence as long as 20 years. A fine of $25,000 and asset forfeitures are also possible. RICO further authorizes victims to pursue damages from responsible parties through civil action.
In Florida, state criminal laws target the purchase of real property or businesses with the profits of racketeering or collecting unlawful debts. Additionally, people named as conspirators in a crime organization or employed by or associated with an apparent racket are violating state law.
In 2019, Naples residents may recall a racketeering arrest that happened here in Florida. The Economic Crimes Unit at the State Attorney’s Office arrested two men for allegedly running a Ponzi scheme related to real estate investing. Both suspects were charged with multiple felonies that included racketeering charges. Investigators claimed that the men stole roughly $6 million from at least 26 victims. They promised large returns on investment but did not buy the real estate that they said they would buy for investors. They spent the money instead while trying to pay previous investors with money from new investors.
Racketeering charges possible when investigators see criminal patterns
By its nature, RICO does not apply to a single, isolated crime. Criminal investigators only start to consider racketeering when they notice repeated crimes by the same people that seem to be for a related criminal purpose. Authorities may become interested in suspects after receiving a tip from a financial institution about suspicious transactions or a complaint from a victim. As more reports come in connected with the same individuals, investigators will dig deeper in an attempt to uncover the criminal conspiracy. If the suspects appear likely to continue committing similar criminal acts, then prosecutors will start to develop a racketeering case.
The exploration of possible defense strategies starts with understanding the legal standards for a crime. The federal or state government’s case must present evidence that satisfies the legal elements that define RICO.
Despite the complexity of conspiracy cases, proving them boils down to:
- showing that a person owned or managed the organization in question
- proving that the organization conducted illegal activities.
Before getting to the point of proving racketeering, a prosecutor needs to prove that the original crimes that were the purpose of the conspiracy happened. If the criminal activity cannot be proved, then the RICO charge is negated.
The two-step process of prosecuting RICO cases can enable a defense attorney to challenge many details within a criminal complaint. Each criminal act comes with its own set of legal standards. Any lack of evidence that undermines the possibility of conviction on a separate criminal charge, like embezzlement, makes it that much harder to obtain a RICO conviction.
The situation also arises in which a person did not realize that he or she was part of a criminal organization. Because criminal rackets often appear as legitimate companies, some employees or partners may genuinely believe that they are working within the law. Consider a salesperson who markets investments on behalf of a firm run by people who are actually stealing investors’ money. The salesperson did not knowingly participate or intend to do wrong. Because federal criminal charges would naturally panic a person in such a position, legal representation is very important because the suspect may not know how to communicate the facts effectively.
The importance of a federal criminal defense lawyer
RICO was designed to take down organized crime figures. As a result, the law has a far-ranging ability to apply to many criminal situations and produce serious consequences for defendants. People who suspect that they have become involved in a criminal organization need to plot a strategy to protect their interests. Joffe Law, P.A. is a firm that focuses on defending people from federal criminal prosecution. Meeting with an attorney will allow an individual to discuss concerns about a RICO investigation in a confidential setting.