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What do RICO charges mean?

| Nov 20, 2020 | Criminal defense

RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which covers crimes at both the state and federal level. The charges and penalties for racketeering and related crimes vary based on the circumstances of each case, such as previous offenses. 

Review the common offenses that fall under racketeering laws. 

Defining racketeering

Racketeering involves running an illegal enterprise with the help of an organized group. This organization may engage in any number of criminal activities to receive a RICO charge, including but not limited to: 

  • Cyber extortion 
  • Illegal weapons trade 
  • Drug trafficking 
  • Human trafficking 
  • Sex trade 
  • Counterfeiting 
  • Protection rackets 
  • Kidnapping involving ransom demands 
  • Reselling stolen goods (fencing) 
  • Corporate bribery or fraud 
  • Predatory lending 

Reviewing North Carolina racketeering laws 

North Carolina may impose racketeering charges if the criminal organization commits two or more illegal activities with common accomplices, victims, goals or outcomes. Crimes that fall under the state racketeering statute include money laundering, drug offenses, extortion, bribery, robbery, arson, gambling, kidnapping or murder. Penalties vary based on the underlying crime and other details of the case, but often include fines as well as jail time. A convicted offender may also be subject to civil restitution and must forfeit property associated with criminal activities. 

Federal charges result from racketeering when the crime crosses state lines. This includes computer crimes such as cyberextortion. The federal court will try these charges when two or more crimes within 10 years stem from a racketeering organization. Each federal count of racketeering carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000 for a conviction.