West Palm Beach RICO Lawyer
Our racketeering defense attorneys are
experts in federal crime. We can help you.
Federal and state racketeering laws were designed to combat organized crime. These laws enable prosecution of individuals who coordinate criminal activities. They empower law enforcement to make connections among seemingly separate criminal acts to expose a larger criminal conspiracy. Investigators expend considerable effort to build these cases and are prone to mixing innocent parties with the guilty. Those accused of this serious crime in should feel strongly motivated to retain a West Palm Beach RICO lawyer. The attention of an expert federal attorney may be needed to avoid a harsh sentence or wrongful conviction.
Examples of racketeering
The federal government created the Racketeer Influenced or Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act because organized crime leaders were difficult to prosecute. Connecting them to the many offenses committed by their gang members was largely impossible prior to RICO. Any individual charged with a single crime within the racket produced little to no effect upon those who engineered the operation and collected the majority of the profits.
To put it simply, people running a racket commit crimes with the intention of furthering a larger criminal operation. The classic example is the protection racket. A shopkeeper must pay for protection or else face vandalism or assault from those selling the protection. Of course, racketeering does not have to follow this crude model. It very often involves layers of white collar crimes.
Racketeering charges are possible in connection with:
- drug trafficking
- illegal gambling
- money laundering
- illegal lending
- human trafficking
As of 2022, a racketeering case appears to be brewing in South Florida after the arrest of two aides of the Miami-Dade County commissioner and a bank employee. According to investigators who gathered evidence that led to the arrests, the county officials stand accused of fraud and racketeering. From 2016 to 2018, they allegedly redirected $640,000 in public funds by awarding grants to their own companies under the cover of supporting youth sports, aiding seniors, and funding Haitian cultural events.
Their alleged co-conspirator at the bank helped them redirect money for their own purposes. The leader of one of the nonprofit organizations involved in the case claimed to being pressured to write grant proposals and then redirect funds to the officials. This was done out of fear of losing access to other legitimate grant money. At this time, the nonprofit leader is not viewed as participating willingly or profiting.
This real-world criminal case illustrates how a racketeering investigation can bring many people under scrutiny. Not everyone involved in alleged crimes are in on the conspiracy. This fact highlights the need for advice from a West Palm Beach racketeering defense attorney. Legal support could protect you from accidentally incriminating yourself when speaking with investigators.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
How RICO investigations start
A federal RICO or state-level racketeering investigation starts when authorities detect patterns within suspicious activities. Typical ways that racketeering comes to the attention of authorities include:
- Banking institutions alert regulators when they notice transactions that could be related to fraud or money laundering.
- A public agency or corporation asks law enforcement for help after an internal review concludes that criminal activity is occurring within the organization.
- A local law enforcement agency notices that various crimes in its jurisdiction appear related.
Anyone approached by investigators, especially those from a federal agency, should seek legal representation right away. The protection of a suspect’s rights in the early stages of an investigation prior to an arrest might prevent criminal charges completely.
How do prosecutors prove racketeering?
The criminal justice system proceeds cautiously when prosecuting people for racketeering because it is a very difficult crime to prove. A RICO conviction relies on proving that:
- A defendant committed two or more criminal acts. AND
- The criminal acts were related to a racket.
This combination of elements actually makes proving racketeering charges difficult. Prosecutors bear the burden of first proving that the defendant committed the crimes. Next, the prosecution must show that the crimes were part of a coordinated effort to support a central criminal enterprise. People who conspire to commit racketeering crimes can also face prosecution for conspiracy even if they do not succeed in committing the crimes.
If the criminal justice system succeeds in proving racketeering, the penalties are very serious.
At the federal level, RICO calls for:
- up to 25 years in prison
- fines of $25,000
- asset forfeiture
Similarly, Florida treats racketeering as a First Degree Felony. On top of fines, prison time up to 30 years is possible.
Additionally, RICO and Florida law enable victims of racketeering to take civil actions against people accused of racketeering. Therefore, a person might have to deal with both criminal and civil cases.
Defense strategies for RICO and racketeering charges
Racketeering cases in West Palm Beach are complex matters, and the need for an expert white collar crime lawyer to defend them is great. A defendant needs a federal defense attorney capable of managing a case with many details. Each detail in a racketeering case could create an opportunity to undermine the claims of prosecutors.
First, the government must prove that someone actually committed the individual crimes. The law outlines elements that define every criminal offense. The prosecutor has the burden of presenting evidence that illustrates that the crime took place and met its definition in the criminal code.
If the defense succeeds in casting doubt on the commission of one or more of the crimes cited against the defendant, then the government’s position weakens. Without multiple crimes to justify the racketeering charge, authorities might be forced to reduce or dismiss charges.
Even if the individual crimes survive the scrutiny of the defense, the government must prove that they were part of a pattern that points to a racket. The alleged patterns may be open to interpretation. A defense lawyer could argue that the government has jumped to the wrong conclusion.
A racketeering lawyer ready to defend you
RICO or state-level racketeering charges have the potential to derail your life through imprisonment, asset seizure, and reputational damage. The complicated nature of the evidence involved may be too much for an overworked public defender to pick apart. With the stakes so high, you deserve the full attention of a knowledgeable West Palm Beach RICO defense lawyer. For a confidential consultation about your next steps, please call Joffe Law, P.A. immediately.