Any person injured in his or her business or property by a pattern of racketeering activity may have standing to seek relief pursuant to the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The statute, more commonly known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, contains provisions permitting prosecution by the United States Department of Justice, and provisions permitting the pursuit of a civil action to recover damages by the victim or victims that result from the pattern of criminal activity by the defendant.
RICO prohibits a “person,” whether an individual, corporation or another entity recognized by law, from acquiring control of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, or from conducting the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. The crimes are defined by the RICO Act and are called “predicate acts.” Predicate acts include murder, attempted murder, extortion, mail fraud, wire fraud, and bribery of union officials under the Labor Management Relations Act. When a defendant has engaged in two or more predicate acts to accomplish a “scheme,” or a planned effort to accomplish a goal, the RICO act may have been violated.
Typically, a plaintiff must prove that he or she has been injured by the defendant’s direction of predicate acts to acquire control of an otherwise legitimate enterprise, or injured by the defendant’s conduct of the enterprise’s affairs to accomplish his or her crimes.
When a plaintiff successfully proves that their business or property has been injured by a violation of the RICO Act, they are entitled to many remedies. Most prominently, they are entitled to be compensated for the value of the damage “trebled.” This means that if a racketeer has burned a building as part of a pattern of racketeering acts with a value of $100,000, the plaintiff is entitled to three times the value, or $300,000. Beyond treble damages, the plaintiff is entitled to be reimbursed for all attorney fees and costs.
It is common for plaintiffs in RICO actions to supplement their federal claim with state law claims related to the alleged crimes. These claims are generally permitted to proceed along with the RICO claim, where the plaintiff is able to substantiate the allegations.