Racketeering (ARS 13-2314 04) covers a wide range of activity with different people, groups and organizations. It is a very serious federal criminal offense that is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Originally, racketeering was criminal activity that law enforcement limited to organized crime. A “racket” is an organized business or a group of people that conducts business illegally for monetary gain.
Drug trafficking, money laundering, embezzlement of funds are all forms of racketeering. However, due to infiltration of organized crime into the legitimate corporate world in exchange for money, the lines have blurred over the decades, casting a wider view of racketeering and white collar crime in general.
What Is Racketeering?
The classic Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of racketeering, or a racketeer, is someone who illegally gets money from someone, normally via intimidation. A broader definition of the term is the illegal methods of getting money or offering false services in exchange for money. Extortion, blackmail, bribery, kidnapping for monetary ransom…all of these falls under the racketeering umbrella.
RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organization)
The Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 as a whole became law on October 15, 1970. The original purpose of the creation of the RICO statute was to stop the infiltration of organized criminal activity into legitimate businesses. An example of this is the timeless film, The Godfather. The Corleone family was a major crime family in New York City. However, they used an olive oil company as a family business to cover their illegal business practices.
The first documented RICO conviction was a La Cosa Nostra boss in New York City named Frank Tieri. Mr. Tieri was convicted on November 21, 1980 of racketeering charges that included threats to a restaurant owner, loansharking (extortion), and fraudulent activity at the Westchester Premier Theater with proven affiliation to the Genovese crime family. Since this time, however, the RICO act has expanded to include any group that is conducting illegal activity under the racketeering umbrella. This can include corrupt police officers and politicians, street gangs, even businesses and corporations.