New Jersey has a history, something heavily depicted in the film industry, of battling organized crime. The criminal charge commonly encountered in this setting is referred to as a violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), also referred to as “Racketeering”. The offense of racketeering/RICO generally describes a scenario where a group of people associate in order to provide and operate an illegal operation of some kind. The conspirators must possess a common purpose, namely, to generate money from an illegal enterprise and related criminal activity. Racketeering is an extremely serious offense and can often involve prosecution by not only the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office by the, New Jersey Attorney General, as well as the United States Attorney. Irrespective of which agency is handling the charges, our attorneys can assist you in defending any variety of organized crime, RICO, or racketeering case. Call us 24/7 at 973-710-1520 for immediate assistance.
What Is Considered “Racketeering” Under New Jersey Law?
There are several forms of conduct that can constitute a violation of the New Jersey RICO law. The first activity falling under the category of racketeering is the “Use or Investment of Income Derived from Racketeering or Collection of Unlawful Debt.” This type of racketeering is closely tied to money laundering and has four (4) material elements. First, it must be proved that the defendant acquired an interest in, established or operated an enterprise. Second, the enterprise must have engaged in trade or commerce or the activities of the enterprise affected trade or commerce. Third, the income, money or property used to acquire, establish or operate the enterprise must have been derived from either a pattern of racketeering conduct or unlawful debt collection. Fourth, the state must prove that the defendant acted knowingly to acquire an interest in, establish or operate the enterprise.
The second racketeering offense is directed at persons who acquire or maintain an interest in or control an enterprise either through a pattern of racketeering activity or unlawful debt collection. An example would be the acquisition of an interest in a business through extortion or in satisfaction of usurious loans. To convict someone of this form of racketeering, the state must again prove four (4) things. First, the state must establish that the defendant has an interest in or control of an enterprise. Second, it must be proved that the enterprise is engaged in or the activities of which affect trade or commerce. Third, it must be proved that the defendant acquired or maintained the interest or controlled the enterprise through a pattern of racketeering conduct or unlawful debt collection. Depending on which alternative the state’s theory is based, it must prove the elements of the pattern of racketeering conduct or the elements of unlawful debt collection. Fourth, it must prove that the defendant acted purposely to acquire or maintain an interest or control of an enterprise.
The third racketeering offense is not concerned with how the interest or control of the enterprise is acquired or maintained but how the enterprise’s affairs are conducted. In this regard, an individual is prohibited from being employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in racketeering or collection of unlawful debt. An individual may be exposed to a conviction for mere participation in such an activity.
The fourth racketeering offense is conspiracy to commit one or more of the three (3) forms of racketeering previously set forth. In establishing a RICO conspiracy charge, the state must prove that the defendant agreed to participate, directly or indirectly, in the affairs of the illegal enterprise by agreeing to commit or to aid other members of the conspiracy to commit or aid in the commission of at least two (2) acts of racketeering.
What Are the Penalties for Racketeering in New Jersey?
Commission of any of the four (4) racketeering offenses previously set forth is a second degree crime unless it is committed in connection with a crime of violence, use of a firearm, or involves a crime of the first degree. When one of these circumstances apply, racketeering is a first degree crime.
Second degree racketeering carries up to ten (10) years in prison while the first degree crime variety can result in twenty (20) years in a New Jersey State Penitentiary. The maximum fine is $150,000 for second degree and $200,000 for first degree racketeering. In addition, any person convicted of this offense is subject to forfeiture of moneys or assets acquired illegally.