To combat “the increasing sophistication of various criminal elements,” the Georgia General Assembly adopted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), developed from existing federal law. The RICO Act is intended to sanction organized criminal activity and to provide compensation to private parties injured as result of such activity.
The Georgia RICO Act makes it a crime for any person, through a pattern of racketeering activity or proceeds derived therefrom, to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise, real property, or personal property of any nature, including money. O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4.
A Georgia RICO prosecution requires proof that a defendant has committed at least two predicate acts of conduct that are crimes chargeable by indictment under certain laws of the state of Georgia or the United States in order to establish “racketeering activity.”
An essential element of this offense is proving a connection or nexus between the enterprise and the racketeering activity. See Dorsey v. State, 279 Ga. 534, 540 (2005) (holding that evidence was sufficient to sustain RICO conviction because there was “a clear connection between the enterprise … and the predicate acts”).
Predicate crimes under this Act used to establish a “pattern of racketeering activity” have been held to include the following: drug crimes, homicide, battery, arson, burglary, forgery, theft, robbery, prostitution and pandering, bribery, influencing witnesses, tampering with witnesses or victims, kidnapping, false imprisonment, terroristic threats, motor vehicle and aircraft hijacking, intimidation of a juror or court officer, perjury, tampering with evidence, commercial gambling, firearm offenses, illegally reproducing copyrighted material, securities violations, credit card fraud, destroying or misrepresenting identification numbers, certain computer crimes, insurance fraud, and mortgage fraud.
If convicted under Georgia’s RICO Act, the defendant will be sentenced to imprisonment for five (5) to twenty (20) years, a fine, or both. Regarding the fine, the sentencing judge may impose a fine up to three times the amount of any money obtained by the defendant during the racketeering scheme.
Civil Law Applicability
For private parties who have suffered injuries as a result of the racketeering activity may have available remedies under civil law. The RICO statutes provide for damages for a plaintiff, including punitive damages, and also authorize a court to order the property or organization to be divested, dissolved, or other injunctive relief.
Being charged under Georgia’s RICO Act is a serious and complex criminal offense. If you or a loved one are facing criminal prosecution through the RICO Act, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has specialized knowledge and experience in handling RICO Act cases in multiple jurisdictions across Georgia.