What Is the RICO Act?

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is an act of Congress signed into law by President Richard Nixon, which extends criminal penalties and creates civil penalties for illegal actions committed by an individual as part of a corrupt organization. According to the Wall Street Journal, the RICO Act was passed in order to give the justice system the ability to charge mafia bosses.

As of 2014, the RICO Act has been used to charge high- and low-level figures in corrupt businesses, Ponzi schemes, dog-fighting rings, street gangs, motorcycle gangs, religious organizations and law enforcement agencies. The oil company BP has been sued under the RICO Act for civil damages resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

According to Wikipedia, in order for a person to be charged with racketeering, the individual must have committed two crimes out of 35 listed crimes within a 10-year period related to a corrupt organization in one of four specified ways. Some famous people who have been charged in RICO investigations include Michael Vick and John Gotti. Famous organizations whose members have been charged under RICO statutes include the Los Angeles Police Department, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, the Key West Police Department, the Gambino crime family and Access Health Source.