The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, although introduced and most famously used from the 1970s-onwards to fight organized crime – i.e., the Mafia – has now grown into a relatively-common claim. Racketeering activity constitutes a variety of claims, including violating gambling statutes, bribery, counterfeiting, embezzlement, securities fraud, drug trafficking, money laundering, and others.
A “pattern” of racketeering activity, which is necessary for a RICO claim, is evidenced by at least two such racketeering acts within the span of a certain number of years, so far as this activity is related to an “enterprise.” To constitute a “relation,” the enterprise was either a prize to the racketeer, an instrument for the racketeer to perform their crimes, participated in the affairs of the enterprise through racketeering activity (effectively making the enterprise a “victim”) or otherwise conspired to do these sorts of activities.
Now, RICO is used to prosecute a variety of civil claims and other “white-collar crime.” Part of the reason is that the awards for a successful RICO claim are highly attractive: treble damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs of litigation are all awarded.
Prosecuting a RICO claim, despite its attractiveness, is not an easy task. There is a heightened standard of pleading, which requires that plaintiff’s allegations must be with “particularity” – in the words of some courts, there must be a “strong inference” that the defendant had fraudulent intent, which often comes down to the defendant’s state of mind and thought process being questioned. Any plaintiffs must also show how their injuries are related to the racketeering conduct, and the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Hemi Group, LLC, et al. v. City of New York precluded RICO claims which do not allege that racketeering conduct was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
The burden of proof for attorneys prosecuting RICO claims is steep. At Kang Haggerty, our attorneys can take the early steps needed to analyze whether your claim would be valid under RICO. Despite these barriers, the attorneys at Kang Haggerty are well-equipped to undertake the careful planning and analysis of the facts at hand to guide you in this process.