What exactly is racketeering?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Financial Crimes |

Someone who is facing criminal charges in Tennessee needs to understand the allegations against them to craft a strong defense strategy. Some charges are straightforward. Drug possession and impaired driving charges involved very specific circumstances and, therefore, have very straightforward requirements for prosecutors.

Other types of charges are more complex and may apply in a broad range of different situations. Racketeering is a perfect example. Someone accused of racketeering may question whether they broke the law at all and may not understand the nature of the charges they face.

What actually constitutes racketeering?

Someone engaged in racketeering participates in an organized scheme to commit criminal activity. People sometimes refer to such schemes as a racket, which explains the origin of the term racketeering. Someone accused of racketeering may have helped to launder money, facilitated illegal gambling or engaged in fraudulent business practices. Racketeering charges often stem from the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

Those accused of violating the RICO Act usually face federal prosecution. Allegations ranging from bribery to obstructing justice could lead to prosecution under the RICO Act. Federal prosecutors can charge an entire group involved in allegedly criminal operations at the same time for the same charge.

What are the possible penalties?

Someone convicted of a federal offense violating the RICO Act could face 20 years in prison or possibly longer depending on the criminal allegations. Judges can also sentence someone to pay large fines because of RICO Act violations.

The law allows the courts to treat everyone involved in the scheme equally and impose harsh penalties against those who may not have directly participated in criminal activity but rather in the scheme intended to support that activity. People may not have planned a crime or benefited directly from it, but they could still be at risk of prosecution in some cases.

Racketeering cases are often incredibly complex and involve high stakes for defendants. While the RICO Act exists to deter and better punish organized crime, it can put individuals who keep the wrong company or take the wrong job in a very vulnerable position. As such, reviewing the evidence for a racketeering case with an attorney can help someone determine the best defense strategy given the circumstances.