What Is Racketeering?

Any criminal act that involves extortion is known as racketeering in the U.S. A person, group of people, or an enterprise that uses fraudulent, intimidating, or criminal means to obtain money is committing racketeering. 

Federal agencies typically use the term racketeering to describe organized crimes that are committed by devising and executing a strategy or scheme to obtain money from another party illegally. In the U.S, it is illegal to run a business that is or was a product of racketeering, meaning the business was started using money obtained from illegal means.  

What Qualifies as Racketeering? 

The following criminal activities can qualify as racketeering depending on the specifics of the case: 

  • An individual threatens another party to obtain money or other types of monetary benefits. 
  • Gambling, arson, and bribery to gain money. This includes tampering with a witness or an informant through bribery. 
  • Murder for hire 
  • Cybersecurity crimes to extort money 
  • Operating a business through illegally-derived income 
  • Trafficking firearms 
  • Money laundering 

What is the RICO Act? 

RICO is defined as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The U.S government introduced it in 1970 to contain racketeering. The RICO Act prohibits any organized crime executed to acquire illegal income. The charges can be held against any individual belonging to the racketeering enterprise. 

This act hinders individuals from carrying out multiple criminal activities under the name of a single organization. According to this act, unlawful debts obtained from any enterprises to be further used as a business interest are prohibited, and any individual who acquires that money and uses it further can be held accountable for racketeering. 

Suppose a federal agency wants to charge a person for racketeering. In that case, it must find proof or a pattern of criminal activities committed by the entity, such as loan sharking, prostitution, drug violations, bankruptcy, mail fraud, ransom, human trafficking, etc. 

There are multiple penalties and punishments under the RICO act that allows the U.S government to catch and punish convicted people involved in racketeering. 

How is Racketeering Proved in Court? 

According to the U.S Department of Justice, if a prosecutor wants to convict an entity of racketeering, they should gather and present sufficient evidence. This includes evidence for the following: 

  • The existence of the criminal enterprise. 
  • The involvement and participation of the defendant in the enterprise’s illegal affairs. 
  • The crimes committed by the enterprise affected interstate commerce. 
  • If the defendant was a part of at least two activities in the racketeering pattern. 

Difference Between State and Federal Racketeering

Racketeering can be prosecuted at the state and federal levels. In December 2020, the U.S Justice Department reported South Carolina’s largest federal racketeering case as a federal crime. The criminal enterprise was committing murders, kidnapping, firearm trafficking, and drug violations. 

Racketeering that is prosecuted at the state level involves crimes such as robbery or assault that are handled by the local state police. Racketeering can also happen online; criminal enterprises use cyber threats and hacking to steal data and money from entities such as government agencies and businesses.