Racketeering: A Serious Crime
What is racketeering? Imagine you own a tire shop, but business is slow. You devise a plan to scatter tacks along the road in proximity to your tire shop. Business would certainly pick up wouldn’t it? There are several ways a person can get caught up in a racketeering system, but the most basic definition of racketeering is creating a problem, and then offering a solution that you financially benefit from. Despite this short and sweet definition, racketeering laws are anything but simple.
A town in Palm Beach County recently filed a claim in federal court, accusing defendants of orchestrating a scheme to obtain attorney’s fees in legal action against said town. Essentially, the plaintiffs suspected the defendants of inundating the town with public records request because if the town failed to adequately meet the requests, then the town could be sued. It was alleged that the purpose of the lawsuits wouldn’t have been to obtain the records, but rather to win attorney’s fees. Ultimately, the court rejected the town’s argument, but this is just one of many examples of how complicated racketeering claims can be.
What are the Racketeering Laws?
Chapter 895 of the Florida Penal Code dictates the law on racketeering in the state. The statute provides that it is unlawful for a person who has, with criminal intent, benefited through racketeering or the collection of unlawful debt to:
- Use or invest the proceeds in to obtain any right to real property or the establishment of any enterprise;
- Use the proceeds to acquire or maintain any interest in real property or enterprise.
Additionally, it is unlawful for a person to be employed by or associated with any pattern of racketeering or the unlawful collection of debt as well as conspiring or endeavoring to violate any provisions outlined in the statute. In all cases, the statute makes clear that the wrongful act can be directly or indirectly committed, which leaves a lot of room for legal interpretation. Under the state law, racketeering is chargeable as a class one felony, which can carry up to a 30 year-prison sentence in addition to fines.
On the federal level, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, more commonly known as “RICO”, was enacted in 1970 and signed into law by Richard Nixon with the original focus being primarily on the Mafia and organized crime. Like the state law, criminal penalties are also imposed via the federal RICO statutes and a person may be facing $25,000 in fines and up to 25 years in prison.
Racketeering Charges Require Skilled Legal Defense
Racketeering laws are not only complex, but lend themselves to varied legal interpretation. White-collar crimes can often be criminally tried at the state level and the federal level and it is important to note that if you’re charged under state laws, you can also be charged under federal laws. Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. is a nationally board certified criminal defense attorney in Miami with over 42 years of experience defending charges of all nature, including racketeering and RICO charges. Call immediately for a free consultation.