What is racketeering?

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Racketeering is a broad term used to describe the act or threat of a crime, and is often associated with organized crime or gang activity.

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The term is defined by Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute as "any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical."

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It also describes any act that is indictable under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or "RICO," statute. The FBI outlines the kinds of state and federal crimes included under RICO on its website.

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According to the Justice Department, someone can only be found guilty of racketeering, or any other activity that violates the RICO statute, if the government can prove "beyond a reasonable doubt":

  • “that an enterprise existed”
  • “that the enterprise affected interstate commerce”
  • “that the defendant was associated with or employed by the enterprise”
  • “that the defendant engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity”
  • “that the defendant conducted or participated in the conduct of the enterprise through that pattern of racketeering activity through the commission of at least two acts of racketeering activity as set forth in the indictment.”

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