One of the biggest tools the government had against the Mafia, is the RICO Act. In fact, thanks to this Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which was passed in 1970s, the government has been able to stop various forms of fraud in its tracks. From 70,000 payday loan victims to individuals scamming and bribing unions, the RICO Act has been able to stop it all. But, at its heart, the act was designed for an FBI probe into the Mafia in particular, as Blake Rubin Facebook has explained.

Blake Rubin Facebook on the Mafia and Rico Act

Racketeering covers many crimes in which anyone who operates as part of an enterprise or organization obtains money in an illegal way. 37 individual crimes (eight state crimes and 27 federal crimes) are listed in the Act. If someone commits two of those crimes within a 10 year period, they may be charged under the Act. Under the act, people can be ordered to pay a hefty fine, surrender any earnings they still have, and/or be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Additionally, those charged under the RICO Act may also be charged individually for the two or more crimes they have committed, such as bribery or sexual exploitation.

Racketeering information, broadly speaking, means:

  1. Violations of statutes of the state in relation to dealing in listed chemicals or controlled substances, dealing in obscene matters, extortion, bribery, robbery, arson, kidnapping, murder, and gambling.
  2. Any act that involves the commissioning of murder for hire, money laundering, gambling, racketeering, slavery, obstruction of justice, dealing in obscene matter, fraud, embezzlement, theft, counterfeiting, bribery, and more.
  3. Union funds embezzlement.
  4. Securities or bankruptcy fraud.
  5. Trafficking of drugs.
  6. (Offenses related to) money laundering.
  7. Bringing in, assisting, or aiding aliens illegally into this country, proven to be for financial gain.
  8. Terrorism.

The RICO Act all but destroyed the Mafia. It started to fall apart at the seams and was damaged beyond repair, driving it further underground. While the threats of the Mafia Dons was very real, the threat of indictment under the RICO Act was far greater. So much so, in fact, that many people started to grass or snitch on the Dons, and the Dons themselves pleading guilty so that they would not have to hand over their assets. After all, under a RICO Act accusation, all assets can be seized, which would leave the defendant without the means to pay for a high quality lawyer.

The RICO Act has some very harsh provisions and some equally harsh penalties. However, as it focuses on behavior patterns and not criminal acts, it is also much easier to prove someone has been involved in racketeering. The result is that it continues to be a very common charge, and one that many who are considering a life of organized crime see as a deterrent. The downside is that it is sometimes also abused, as was seen with the Napster incident.