During the massive economic boom in the U.S. in the early 1970s, many avenues presented themselves for organized crime to exploit the burgeoning businesses. In response, lawmakers approved the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in 1970 to combat the infiltration of organized crime into legitimate businesses. Although lawmakers passed it at a federal level, each state has adopted its own version of RICO. Here’s how Texas defines and prosecutes racketeering.
Understanding racketeering in Texas
Under Texas law, racketeering is the act of obtaining money through illegal activities. This includes any combination of theft, fraud, extortion or embezzlement.
It is also possible for prosecutors to bring RICO charges against individuals who interfere with a legitimate organization’s activities. For instance, pro-life protesters blocking abortion clinic entryways or people in positions of power who turn a blind eye to employee mistreatment can face racketeering charges.
The burden of proof required for prosecutors
In Texas, prosecutors only have to prove that the defendant owned, managed or was part of an organization that conducted racketeering activities. In other words, as long as they can associate you with a criminal organization, you may be liable for racketeering charges even if you did not actually commit the alleged felonies.
Penalties for racketeering in Texas
If the court finds someone guilty of racketeering, depending on the nature and severity of the offense, they could face up to a lifetime in prison or pay fines as high as $250,000 or twice as much as the money made from the criminal organization. The federal government can also freeze assets gained through racketeering, so the defendant cannot cash out on any ill-gotten money even after serving their sentence.
It’s evident that through stringent racketeering laws, Texas aims to maintain a fair and equitable business environment while protecting the welfare of its people. That said, it’s important to remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty in the eyes of the law. Understanding your rights and the legal process is key to mounting an effective defense and achieving the best outcome.