Federal laws making racketeering illegal have been in existence since 1970 when the U.S. Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). While created to convict mafia leaders and organized crime rings, the laws are equally effective today.
Law enforcement follows guidance set out by the RICO laws to prosecute gangs, illegal drug distributors and human trafficking rings.
1. Racketeering is more than one crime
Thirty-five different crimes fall under the umbrella of racketeering. These include:
- money laundering
Racketeering is not a single crime but a pattern of multiple crimes enacted for an organization’s benefit. The state of Colorado identifies a pattern as at least two acts of criminal activity within a 10-year period.
2. The five criteria of racketeering
For a pattern of crime to qualify as racketeering, these five circumstances must exist:
- A criminal organization, company or group, called a racket, made a profit off illegal activities
- The defendant belonged to the racket
- The defendant participated in racketeering activities
- The racket moved goods from one state to another
- The defendant committed two related racketeering crimes within a 10-year period
3. Racketeering is a class 2 felony
As a class 2 felony, racketeering requires a sentence of 8 to 24 years in prison. Once released, parol is set at a minimum of five years. Additionally, convicts might pay anywhere from $5,000 to $1 million in fines.
Racketeering is a federal offense that carries long prison sentences and high fines. While the specifics of the crimes may change over time, any organized criminal activity can fall under the scope of racketeering.