RICO Act and the Mafia Term Paper

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Oreto, 37 F.3d 739 (1st Cir. 1994). The 2st Circuit rejected the defendant's claim that requiring two predicate acts for conviction under one theory of liability but only one act for conviction under "loan sharking," violated equal protection.

Due Process. The forfeiture provisions of RICO have been criticized for violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Numerous cases have rejected this criticism including U.S. v. Nichols, (10th Cir. 1994).

Tenth Amendment. Arguments that RICO unconstitutionally intrudes upon state sovereignty in violation of this Amendment have all been summarily rejected. U.S. v. Thompson, 685 F.2d 993-1001 (6th Cir. 1982).

Most experts agree that RICO has been abused since its first effective use against the Mafia in the 1980s. For certain, it has virtually destroyed the Mafia -- Blakey's intended goal and its only intended purpose at the time. However, even prior to the first Mafia convictions under its statutes, the moneymaking possibilities of its triple damages clause became difficult to pass up, and the definitions of "racketeering" were expanded on a case-by-case basis to take advantage of them for cases not even remotely connected to the original intent of the bill. However, the RICO Act has survived all constitutional and legal challenges, as well as the doubts and questions about its ever-increasing scope of application.

Contemporary Issues (Walker, 2010)

Under RICO, the Obama administration is seeking a $300 billion judgment against the tobacco industry for their 50 years of deceiving the American public that "has cost the lives and damaged the health of untold millions of Americans." Previous court rulings that barred the government from collecting $280 billion in past tobacco company profits are requested to be thrown out. At the same time, a group of tobacco companies are asking the Court to throw out any past rulings that the tobacco companies purposely and illegally hid the dangers of cigarette smoking.

In February, 2010, SK Foods, grower, processor and distributor of tomato and other food products nationwide, has been indicted under RICO on seven charges including defrauding SK Foods' corporate customers through bribery and food misbranding and adulteration. Wire fraud charges and obstruction of justice are also included.

The Supreme Court, in January, 2010, ruled against New York City and their effort to use RICO to sue Internet cigarette sellers. New York's suit charged Hemi Group with fraud for its failure to provide customer information to the state. The court's states opinion was that New York City simply could not use the racketeering law to collect tobacco taxes from the defendant.

February, 2010. Scott Rothstein, a disbarred Florida lawyer who is alleged to have swindled investors out of $1.2 billion, is being sued by the federal government under RICO for mail, wire, and bank fraud in addition to money laundering. In a typical Ponzi-scheme, Rothstein and his cohorts sold fake legal settlements to investors.


RICO cannot be considered just another criminal statute. It covers civil law as well, and has been used to battle everything from the Catholic Church to spouses who attempt to hide assets in divorce proceedings. To some the law is a godsend with a wide and liberal net. To others the application of RICO has brought concerns about an overreaching government and abuse of some defendants' Constitutional rights. Constitutional challenges have been numerous.

But RICO stands as a beacon to warn all those who defy it that it has conquered almost every foe, every challenge, and remains in full force.


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