In 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted to provide criminal penalties for individuals who have connections to an organization that influences interstate trade and who are known for racketeering activity, states the United States Justice Department. It is used to prosecute members of organized crime.
The RICO law was originally designed to help prosecutors take action against organized crime, such as the Mafia, notes HG.org Legal Resources. Since then, the definition of a criminal organization has been expanded to include drug cartels, street gangs, motorcycle clubs and corrupt police departments. Each RICO violation is punishable by 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or double the proceeds from the activity.