Racketeering is receiving money or profit from organized illegal activities, and there are laws in Florida that make it a crime. The laws around racketeering in Florida are complex and can be confusing. Following is what you need to know if you ever find yourself charged with racketeering in Florida.
“Racketeering” is a term coined by the Employers’ Association of Chicago in the late 1920s to describe a variety of crime they allege was occurring among the Teamsters in the area. In their usage, “racketeering” was a service that causes its own demand and would not have otherwise been necessary, such as a “protection service” or other such extortion crimes.
In an effort at combating organized crime on a broader level, the Federal government enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968), also known as the “RICO Act” in 1970. Seeking to cause “the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce,” the RICO Act defined racketeering as committing several violations of certain crimes over the space of a decade. Though aimed specifically at organized crime, the Federal RICO Act is also frequently used against a wide variety of criminal organizations.
Florida has its own RICO Act for crimes committed wholly in the state. The Florida statute defines racketeering as
- has with criminal intent
- received any proceeds derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or
- through the collection of an unlawful debt
- to use or invest, whether directly or indirectly, any part of such proceeds, or the proceeds derived from the investment or use thereof,
- in the acquisition of any title to, or any right, interest, or equity in, real property or
- in the establishment or operation of any enterprise.
Also prohibited under the act is for a person involved in racketeering to own or operate a business or have an interest in real property. Conspiring with others to commit racketeering is a crime as well.
“Pattern Of Racketeering”
Florida law prohibits engaging in a “pattern of racketeering.” This is defined as
- engaging in multiple instances of racketeering
- with the same or similar accomplices, intents, methods, results, or victims, or that are otherwise related by distinguishing characteristics and not isolated incidents, and
- at least one act happened after the law was instituted in 1977, and
- the latest instance was within five years of the one immediately before it.
A conviction of racketeering in Florida is a first degree felony, meaning a defendant could receive a sentence of up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Alternatively, a defendant could be sentenced to pay treble damages of the total value he or she derived from the racketeering activity.