Generally speaking, the white-collar crime of racketeering refers to criminal acts that are part of a larger scheme, or racket, designed to generate illegal profits. In New York, racketeering is made illegal by statute. It may also be prosecuted under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Racketeering charges are often brought in addition to charges for a more specific criminal act. For example, a person might be charged with extortion and racketeering if the extortion is alleged to be part of a larger criminal scheme.
Types of racketeering crimes
The RICO statute enumerates a number of federal crimes that can give rise to racketeering charges if they are part of an alleged criminal enterprise. These enumerated crimes include kidnapping, murder, arson, extortion, bribery and drug crimes. Other forms of racketeering might make use of cyber extortion or illegal gambling. Cyber extortion involves infecting the target’s computer with malware and then demanding payment to remove it. Illegal gambling could include unlicensed casinos, card rooms or sports books.
Federal RICO charges
The RICO Act brings some types of violent crimes into the realm of white collar crimes by alleging they are part of a larger illegal scheme. To prove a violation of the RICO Act, the prosecution must establish that a criminal enterprise existed that affected interstate commerce, that the individual charged was associated with the enterprise and that the individual engaged in racketeering via at least two racketeering acts.
Corporations might also be involved in racketeering. A drug company, for example, might bribe physicians to overprescribe its drugs, thereby committing fraud to increase profits. Lending companies might also engage in racketeering if they trick borrowers into taking out loans that they cannot repay. Racketeering is a serious crime and a federal conviction could result in 20 years or more in prison.