Criminal Law
What Is Racketeering in New York? All You Need to Know

What Is Racketeering in New York? All You Need to Know

On Behalf of vitalianolaw | Mar 03, 2022 |

Many people have heard the term “racketeering” but do not fully understand what this criminal offense defines or how it applies to everyday life. The most basic definition of racketeering is participation in a corrupt enterprise, profiting from illegal activity. However, racketeering can involve many different illegal activities, and there are special laws in place at the state and federal levels pertaining to organized crime and associated penalties for conviction.

The Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act is one of the most important laws pertaining to racketeering in the US. The RICO Act was first developed to combat organized crime that had proliferated throughout the United States after World War II. In 1986, the Organized Crime Control Act formally adopted the RICO Act’s provisions into the New York Penal Code. This change was intended to prevent further proliferation of organized crime, including enterprise-level criminal activities that involved the infiltration and corruption of legitimate businesses and organizations.

Identifying Racketeering

One of the most common examples of racketeering is the creation of a problem with the intention of profiting by selling the solution to those affected. For example, a common racketeering tactic used by organized crime enterprises in the US was the “protection” racket. Members of the organization would approach a business owner, demanding they pay money regularly for the organization to protect them and their business. If the business owner refused, the organization would typically begin terrorizing them and damaging their business. On the other hand, if the business owner agreed, they would be forced to pay protection money regularly. As a result, the organization offering “protection” would typically increase the cost of their protection over time.

Racketeering is a complex crime that typically involves numerous related offenses. More advanced racketeering operations have included crimes such as:

This is not an exhaustive list, and an individual can face separate charges for specific offenses and charges for participating in a criminal enterprise. One of the unique aspects of the RICO Act is that when one individual found to have participated in a criminal enterprise is charged with a felony, every other individual involved can be charged for the same felony.

For example, if a drug trafficking operation involves 10 individuals and one of them murders in the course of their illegal activities, the other nine members of the organization may qualify for prosecution for murder charges as well due to the terms of the RICO Act. This is one of the most important pieces of criminal law that allows state and federal criminal justice agencies and law enforcement agencies to aggressively prosecute participants in organized crime and dismantle criminal enterprises.

What to Expect in a Racketeering Case

If you are charged with racketeering offenses or felonies under the RICO Act, it’s vital to understand the severity of the penalties you face. If your case unfolds in federal court, the possible penalties escalate significantly, potentially leading to 20 or more years in federal prison. In addition, you will likely face a wide range of charges related to your own criminal activities and those of other members of your criminal organization.

Your criminal defense attorney can help you determine the best available defenses in this situation. Depending on your case’s unique details and level of involvement with the criminal organization in question, you could have more opportunities for defending yourself than you initially realize. For example, it’s possible to claim duress or coercion if you were threatened into participating in the activities in question. It’s also possible for a defendant to claim they did not know that their activities were criminal. Ultimately, the best available defenses in this type of case vary on an individual basis, so it’s crucial to secure defense representation as soon as possible if you are charged with any racketeering in New York.


Q: What Are the Three Types of Racketeering?

A: The three main types of racketeering are:

  1. Conducting or participating in criminal activities organized at an enterprise level, specifically through a pattern of behavior.
  2. Maintaining a financial interest or acquiring financial interests in an organized criminal enterprise.
  3. Investing proceeds obtained through a pattern of involvement with a criminal enterprise.

Q: What Are Examples of Racketeering Crimes?

A: The federal RICO Act defines 35 distinct offenses that qualify for prosecution as racketeering offenses. A few crimes commonly cited in racketeering cases are bribery, kidnapping, extortion, murder, drug smuggling, sex trafficking, counterfeiting, fraud, and embezzlement. Anyone convicted under the RICO Act will face severe penalties for each offense, and they will often face numerous offenses due to the actions of their co-conspirators.

Q: Does New York have a RICO Act?

A: New York’s Organized Crime Control Act essentially contains the same legal provisions as the RICO Act enforced at the federal level. Enterprise corruption in New York is a Class B felony. If an individual qualifies for prosecution under New York’s Organized Crime Control Act, their case unfolds in state criminal court. If an offense qualifies for prosecution at the federal level, the RICO Act will dictate potential penalties for defendants involved in the case.

Q: Do I Need a Lawyer for a RICO Case?

A: If you face criminal prosecution under the RICO Act or New York’s Organized Crime Control Act, securing criminal defense representation is crucial. An experienced defense attorney can help you prove your innocence if you were wrongfully charged or did not know you were involved in a criminal enterprise. Your legal team can also assist you with plea bargaining if a conviction is unavoidable and help you approach your case proceedings with confidence.

Racketeering cases are some of the most complex criminal cases that can unfold in New York criminal court. Unfortunately, it is also possible for some New York defendants to qualify for prosecution at the federal level. Attorney Michael Vitaliano can provide the defense representation you need if you face racketeering charges in New York, even if your case involves multiple charges and a severe penalty. Contact the Vitaliano Law Firm today to schedule a consultation with an experienced racketeering defense attorney.