In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (US Code-Title 18), or RICO, to provide a powerful tool in the fight against organized crime. The RICO Act enables persons financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity to bring a RICO claim in state and federal court, and to obtain damages three times the amount of their actual harm, plus attorneys fees and costs (www.ricoact.com). Since the mid-1980’s, the RICO Act has been applied in circumstances that many believe to be beyond the scope of the act. The RICO Act has been used successfully against a number of members of the Mafia. It has also been applied in cases against legitimate business people, including accountants, attorneys, and spouses in divorce cases, and protest organizations.
RICO prohibits using money generated by a pattern of racketeering to gain or maintain control over an enterprise, to invest in an enterprise, or to participate in the conduct or affairs of an enterprise (Whitman & Gergacz, 430). Section 1962 of the RICO Act defines a racketeering activity as any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, embezzlement, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance, which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year (www.4law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/1962.text.num). A pattern of racketeering activity may be defined as the commitment of two or more of these violations of the RICO act within a period of ten years. An enterprise can include any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals asso...
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...enced and Corrupt Organizations Act has undergone a change. The original purpose of the law was to stop corrupt persons from using a legitimate business as a cover-up for illegal actions, such as gambling or drug trafficking. Over time, it has become more of a tool in civil RICO claims than in criminal cases. The purpose remains the similar though, to keep people from illegally prospering on the misfortune of others. With the advent of civil RICO, private parties have a way of taking action against a business that has wronged them. RICO will likely continue to grow in its uses to achieve justice.
1.Douglas Whitman & Charles Gergacz (1994). The Legal and Social Environment of Business, p. 432-438, New York: McGraw Hill, Inc.
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