Under both federal and state racketeering laws, it is considered a criminal offense if a criminal organization or enterprise receives income through that organization or enterprise’s racketeering activity or through the collection of unlawful debts. The federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act proscribes a variety of activities related to any criminal organizations or enterprises that engage in interstate or foreign commerce. Likewise, the Florida RICO Act criminalizes an array of racketeering activities and specifically defines criminal gangs as enterprises, which allows the State to charge a complete criminal enterprise, rather than just an individual.
Under Florida law, racketeering means committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating someone else to commit certain crimes or illegal gambling or money lending. For example, under the Florida RICO Act, racketeering could include conspiring to bribe individuals who hold public office, or committing a crime related to slot machine gaming. The law also explicitly prohibits investing proceeds obtained through any racketeering activity or the collection of an unlawful debt, or to acquire any title or interest in real property through racketeering or the collection of an unlawful debt.
If you are accused of racketeering activity, both criminal and civil actions may be pursued against you. Accordingly, not only can you be subject to criminal penalties, such as fines and jail time, but you may also be subject to civil forfeiture of property used or acquired through the racketeering activity.
In Florida, racketeering activities are usually considered first-degree felonies where penalties can include up to thirty years in jail and fines of up to $10,000. In some instances, a person convicted of racketeering activity from which they derived pecuniary value may, instead of paying a fine, pay an amount that is not more than three times the value they gained, or three times the loss they caused by their racketeering activity. In addition to this amount, however, one would also have to pay court costs and the costs of prosecution and investigation.
Recent changes to the Florida RICO Act will enhance enforcement actions aimed at criminal organizations and enterprises. As mentioned above, not only are those accused of racketeering possibly subject to criminal penalties, but they may be subject to civil penalties as well. In addition to civil forfeiture, under the amended Florida RICO statute, if you are accused of racketeering activity, you may be subject to civil penalties of up to $100,000, and if your business if involved, the business could be subject to penalties of up to $1 million. It is also possible that with these new changes to the law, enforcement and prosecution will be even more aggressive.