How The RICO Act Combats Organised Crime

How The RICO Act Combats Organised Crime

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a powerful federal law enacted in 1970 to combat organized crime.

Initially designed to target the Mafia, the RICO Act has since been applied to various criminal enterprises and has become a formidable tool in the hands of law enforcement, and has been particularly successful in New York.

I. What are RICO Rules?

The RICO Act provides a framework for prosecuting individuals and organizations involved in organized criminal activities. Its primary objective is to dismantle and disrupt the operations of such enterprises. The key features and rules of the RICO Act include:

  1. Pattern of Racketeering Activity: RICO charges require evidence of a pattern of racketeering activity, which involves engaging in at least two specified criminal acts within a ten-year period. These criminal acts, known as “predicate acts,” can include offenses such as bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering, and drug trafficking.
  2. Enterprise: The RICO Act targets both individuals and enterprises. An enterprise can be any legal entity, including corporations, partnerships, and associations. It can also encompass informal groups or networks that engage in ongoing criminal activities.
  3. Prohibited Activities: RICO prohibits various activities related to organized crime, such as acquiring or maintaining an interest in an enterprise through racketeering, conducting the affairs of an enterprise through racketeering, and conspiring to engage in racketeering activities.
  4. Criminal and Civil Liability: RICO allows for both criminal and civil liability. Criminal charges under RICO can lead to severe penalties, including imprisonment and substantial fines. In civil cases, RICO provides a mechanism for victims to seek compensation for damages caused by the racketeering activities.

II. What is being charged with RICO?

Being charged with RICO involves facing allegations of participating in or conducting activities associated with an organized criminal enterprise. The charges can be brought against individuals, including leaders, members, or associates of the enterprise, as well as the enterprise itself. To establish a RICO charge, the prosecution must prove the existence of a pattern of racketeering activity and the connection of the accused to the enterprise.

The RICO Act has been employed to target a wide range of criminal organizations, such as drug cartels, gangs, corrupt corporations, and white-collar criminal networks. Individuals charged with RICO offenses may face severe consequences, including lengthy prison sentences, asset forfeiture, and significant financial penalties.

III. What does RICO mean?

RICO is an acronym for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970 as a response to the escalating influence of organized crime in the United States. The legislation was primarily aimed at the Italian-American Mafia but has since been employed against various criminal enterprises. RICO’s goal is to combat the pervasive influence of organized crime by targeting both individuals and the organizations they are affiliated with.

IV. RICO Charge in New York:

New York has been a prominent battleground for RICO prosecutions, given its historical association with organized crime. The state has its own RICO statute, known as the New York State Organized Crime Control Act (OCCA), which closely mirrors the federal RICO Act. Under the OCCA, individuals and enterprises engaging in organized criminal activities face similar penalties and consequences as under the federal RICO Act.

In New York, RICO charges are frequently used to dismantle and disrupt the operations of organized crime syndicates, street gangs, and corrupt organizations. The charges often involve offenses such as drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, and other forms of racketeering.

RICO prosecutions in New York have resulted in the dismantling of influential criminal networks and have had a significant impact on reducing organized crime activities in the state.


The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) serves as a potent tool in the fight against organized crime. Its rules, which include establishing a pattern of racketeering activity, targeting individuals and enterprises, and allowing for both criminal and civil liability, have made it a vital instrument for law enforcement. RICO charges have led to severe consequences for those involved in organized criminal activities. In New York, RICO has played a crucial role in combating and dismantling the Mafia and was very instrumental in the fall of the Gambino Crime Family operations like the Pizza Connection.