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RICO – Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act

RICO

In 1970, Congress enacted the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act know as the RICO Act or simply RICO.  At a time when large scale, violent organized crime had run rampant, the Act was intended to give the government a significant tool in prosecuting the individuals who ran the operations, but rarely directly participated in specific crimes.  As time has passed, the RICO act has been used to prosecute huge groups of people involved in mob activity, street gangs, biker clubs and even some corporate organizations.

The white collar criminal defense attorneys at The Henry Law Firm PLLC have successfully represented individuals and organizations charged with violations of RICO.  Because of the complex nature of RICO, an experienced attorney is required to challenge every aspect of the crime charged.

RICO is codified in 18 U.S.C. 1961-1968. 18 U.S.C. 1962(c), the most commonly used section, makes it a crime for:

[A]ny person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt.

18 U.S.C. 1961 defines a “pattern of racketeering” as at least two racketeering acts where at least one of the acts happened after the RICO statute was passed and the last of which was committed within 10 years of the prior after the prior act.  The 10 year time period excludes periods of incarceration.  “Racketeering Activity” is defined by a list of 35 crimes – 27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes – that includes violent and non-violent crimes.

A person may also violate RICO through a conspiracy.  18 U.S.C. 1962(d) makes it a crime to violate RICO through conspiracy.  Unlike a substantive violation of RICO, a conspiracy to commit RICO may not require proof that the person personally committed two racketeering acts.  For example:

When defendant agrees to participate in conduct of enterprise’s affairs with object of violating substantive Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) provision, it is not necessary for defendant to agree to personally commit two predicate acts in order to establish required pattern of racketeering activity[.]
United States v. Gonzalez, 921 F.2d 1530 (11th Cir. 1991)

However, if a person engages in a “single objective conspiracy,” not the overarching RICO conspiracy, the requirement of proving a pattern of activity may only be met by specifically proving an agreement to commit two racketeering acts.

Additionally, double jeopardy does not apply in many instances even if an individual has been convicted and served a sentence for a crime that serves as a racketeering activity under a separate RICO indictment.  This is especially true where a defendant’s prior conviction was the result of one of the eight enumerated state crimes that serve as racketeering activities.  Some argument on this front was suggested recently in a case by the United States Supreme Court where the dissent stated:

The double jeopardy proscription is intended to shield individuals from the harassment of multiple prosecutions for the same misconduct. Green v. United States, 355 U. S. 184, 187 (1957). Current “separate sovereigns” doctrine hardly serves that objective. States and Nation are “kindred systems,” yet “parts of ONE WHOLE.” The Federalist No. 82, p. 245 (J. Hopkins ed., 2d ed. 1802) (reprint 2008). Within that whole is it not “an affront to human dignity,” Abbate v. United States, 359 U. S. 187, 203 (1959) (Black, J., dissenting), “inconsistent with the spirit of [our] Bill of Rights,” Developments in the Law—Criminal Conspiracy, 72 Harv. L. Rev. 920, 968 (1959), to try or punish a person twice for the same offense? Ordinarily, a final judgment in a criminal case, just as a final judgment in a civil case, should preclude renewal of the fray anyplace in the Nation.

Commonwealth of Puerto Rico v. Valle, 579 U.S. __ (2016).

Punishment for RICO violations can be severe.  In many instances a sentence under RICO it is predicated on the guideline level for the underlying offense.  Thus, if you are convicted of a RICO conspiracy involving murder the sentence can be extremely severe.

There are many arguments related to RICO that can and should be made in Court.  It is important to seek the counsel of an attorney with experience in defending RICO prosecutions.  The complexity, severity and sheer amount of work involved requires dedication and careful attention to detail.

Call The Henry Law Firm PLLC immediately at 646-820-0224 if you are facing federal RICO charges. A strong defense can be the difference in the case.

 

Can I Go to Jail For Using Bitcoin?

Bitcoin and similar “crytpocurrencies” have been around for years, but Bitcoin is getting a lot more attention than usual in 2017, primarily based on the fact that such currencies have risen in value six times over since the start of the year, and $6.6 billion in digital currencies are now traded daily. This growth in digital currencies is having some effect on mitigating the cloud of controversy that has hung over Bitcoin and similar currencies, which is partly due to the mysterious origins of Bitcoin (for years its inventor remained anonymous) and the frequent use of Bitcoin in criminal transactions. But, as digital currency grows in popularity, more individuals and businesses are justifiably interested in learning more while understandably cautious about the legality.

Digital Currency Usage Is Not Inherently Illegal

Individuals and businesses are permitted to use Bitcoin and other similar currencies, although some states such as New York do impose licensing requirements on certain parties. Under New York State’s recently promulgated BitLicense rules, parties engaged in the following activities are required to obtain a BitLicense from the state if they are conducting business in New York or with people who reside in New York:

  • Virtual currency transmission
  • Storing, holding, or maintaining custody or control of virtual currency on behalf of others
  • Buying and selling virtual currency as a customer business
  • Performing exchange services as a customer business
  • Controlling, administering, or issuing a virtual currency

Customers and merchants who merely conduct transactions involving digital currency are not required to obtain a license in New York.

Criminal Liability With Bitcoin

The most common situations in the news involving criminal liability for use of Bitcoin and similar currencies is when the currency is used for illegal purposes. Several high-profile individuals have been convicted of crimes in connection with an online marketplace called Silk Road where illegal transactions involving criminal acts for hire, illegal pornography, and drug trafficking were facilitated by use of Bitcoin.

In one case, an entrepreneur who ran a service facilitating Bitcoin transactions pled guilty and served time in federal prison for facilitating the purchase of illegal drugs on Silk Road using Bitcoin. In another case, the founder of Silk Road was sentenced to life in prison for his role in facilitating illegal transactions using Bitcoin, and his trial included evidence of five potential murder-for-hires that he sought out “to protect his burgeoning creation from informants.”

Bitcoin and similar currencies have also been factors in criminal investigations and prosecutions involving fraudulent securities dealings as well as money laundering. Ultimately, many of the same finance-related crimes that can be committed with traditional currency can also be committed with digital currency, although, perhaps ironically given the attraction many of had to the supposed privacy of digital currency, crimes involving digital currency have become easier for law enforcement to investigate in some cases.

When faced with any questions over potential criminal liability for a proposed transaction or one that has already occurred, parties are highly encouraged to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney regarding their situation.

Contact a New York White Collar Defense Attorney Today

The Henry Law Firm PLLC provides criminal defense to individuals and businesses throughout New York in all state and federal investigations and prosecutions, and aggressively pursues appeals on their behalf. To take immediate action to defend your rights in a white collar investigation or prosecution, do not hesitate to contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation regarding your matter.

When Do I Have a Right to an Attorney?

As residents of the United States – whether citizens or not – we enjoy the greatest legacy of constitutional rights against government overreach into our personal lives that the world has known, and this legacy is most famously embedded in our constitution’s approach to the rights of people against police and prosecutors. But, in many cases, unless a person is actually aware of what those rights are and how to utilize them, those rights can be wasted. This is especially true with regard to our constitutional right to an attorney. Below we briefly discuss what that means and how you can assert those rights.

Don’t Speak: The Fifth Amendment Right to an Attorney

We often speak of the “right to an attorney” as if it were a single right provided by the constitution, but really there are two distinct but related sources of this right in the constitution. The first is the Fifth Amendment, which states that a person has the right against self-incrimination. What that means is that you cannot be forced to give the government damaging information about yourself that could lead to a conviction.

The federal courts have more fully illustrated what that means by also ruling that a person does not need to provide any information to a government agent questioning him. In addition, the courts have ruled that, when a person tells the police that he wants to speak to an attorney before speaking to police, the police must stop all questioning.

Note that this right does not depend on the police arresting you or “reading you your rights,” and instead a person can invoke this right anytime the police are questioning him. If the police keep questioning, then they are in violation of the law and any statements provided will be inadmissible at trial.

“The Assistance of Counsel”: The Sixth Amendment Right to an Attorney

In addition to the right to a lawyer that attaches to every person’s right against self-incrimination, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution also guarantees every person “the Assistance of Counsel for his defense” at trial. As with the Fifth Amendment, the federal courts have ruled that this constitutional guarantee means that a defendant not only has a right to an attorney at a criminal trial but also has a right to an attorney during pre-trial proceedings, starting from the time that formal proceedings are brought against the defendant, such as through an indictment.

What this means is that any statement obtained from a defendant by government agents without his attorney present is inadmissible. But, putting this together with the Fifth Amendment rights, what every person should understand is that they always have a right to an attorney when approached by government agents – regardless of whether they have been read their rights, arrested, or formally charged – and speaking to police or other agents without an attorney can result in self-incrimination.

Contact a New York Defense Attorney Today

The Henry Law Firm PLLC provides criminal defense to individuals and businesses throughout New York in all state and federal investigations and prosecutions. If you believe you may be under investigation for any state or federal crime, do not hesitate to contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation regarding your matter.  

In What Circumstances Can a Drug Conviction Be Appealed?

Whether you have been convicted in state or federal court for a drug crime, you already know that serious consequences to your liberty and future can follow, including a long prison sentence, steep fines, and lasting damage to your personal and professional reputation. Which makes appealing your drug conviction a hugely important step to consider. Not all convictions involve circumstances providing grounds for appeal, but below are a few common grounds for appealing a drug crime conviction. Consult with an experienced drug crime appeals attorney to learn more about grounds for appeal in your situation, and do not delay as appeals are often extremely time-sensitive.

Improper Police Action in Detaining or Arresting You

The police must have reasonable suspicion that you have violated the law to stop and detain you, whether on the street or in your car. If they did not, and evidence leading to your conviction was collected as a result, you may have grounds to appeal. In addition, police must have probable cause that you committed a crime before arresting you, and failure to do so can be grounds for appeal.

Failure to Provide You With an Attorney

If the police obtained statements from you leading to your conviction while in custodial interrogation (e.g. where you were detained) prior to reading you your Miranda rights, such statements may be thrown out on appeal. In addition, if you asked for a lawyer but did not receive one, or if the police questioned you without a lawyer after you were indicted, you may have grounds to appeal.

Improper Admission or Denial of Evidence

Convictions in drug crimes are often based on the nature of the evidence admitted against you, either in witness statements or physical or documentary evidence. If a judge improperly allowed the admission of evidence against you in violation of procedural rules or your constitutional rights (such as where the police violate your Fourth Amendment rights with an illegal search), this can be grounds for appeal. Likewise, an improper  failure to allow the admission of evidence that would have helped exculpate you may also be grounds for appeal.

Issues with Your Criminal Jury

A number of grounds for appeal can arise with regard to the jury that handed down your conviction. If prosecutors used improper jury selection techniques – such as selecting jurors based on race – this can be grounds for appeal. Also, if jurors engaged in misconduct by failing to follow the judge’s orders, this can also be grounds for appeal.

A Lack of Sufficient Evidence Against You

While a jury makes the determination of guilt against you, the question of your guilt should not even go to the jury if the prosecutors had not presented evidence such that it would be reasonable for a jury to find that you were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. An appeals attorney can examine your trial record to determine whether this is the case.

Improper Judge Instructions

If the judge improperly instructed the jurors with regard to how they should analyze the facts presented at your trial in the light of the legal structures, this can be grounds for appeal.

Failure of Your Counsel at Trial

Unfortunately, many attorneys are incompetent or at least fail to provide adequate counsel at trial. If this was the case, you may have grounds for appeal.

Improper Sentence

When a judge hands down a sentence after a conviction that is not supported by the facts or the law, you can appeal the sentence.

Contact a New York Federal Drug Crime Appeals Attorney Today

The Henry Law Firm PLLC provides criminal defense to individuals and businesses throughout New York in all state and federal investigations and prosecutions and aggressively pursues appeals on their behalf. To take immediate action to appeal your drug crime conviction, do not hesitate to contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation regarding your matter.

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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.