RICO charges have to do with the racketeering statute that was passed many years ago to help deal with organized crime. RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. What the federal government has done now is they have taken it to the modern world and they're going after gangs. I've seen them arrest a lot of gangs in Los Angeles and when I say gangs, I mean they arrest the whole gang. They get every single that they can get their hands on and indict them and put them all together and charge them with racketeering, drugs, weapons violations — anything else — intimidating witnesses, murder, attempted murder. The federal government is very sophisticated and that's why they have this RICO enactment in order to deal with some of these gangs that have a lot of connections and a lot of members and the states just simply deal with them.
I remember when they did one of their first RICO indictments of one of the local gangs in Los Angeles in about 2005 and they have done it ever since. They've gone after the Mongols. They've gone after every single LA gang and all the biker gangs — anybody that's into making money are at the expense of other people so they are looking at these gang members who are dealing with drugs, threatening people, extorting people for money and they've come in with this RICO charge which carries some serious teeth and can put somebody away for many, many years in federal prison at 85%.
So, if you or a loved one is charged with a RICO violation, obviously you want to get the best federal criminal defense attorney you can find. A lot of times some of these RICO charges are over-inflated and they really should just be capturing the top gang members, but instead they throw the net out and get everybody, trying to put pressure on them, Trying to get them to lip and testify against some of the bigger up-gang members for fear that they're going to get some sort of a ten years, fifteen year, twenty year mandatory minimum related to RICO and drug-related offenses.
Negotiation with Federal Prosecutor
The key thing though is to get an attorney who knows what they're doing because they can look at all the discovery in the case, sit down with the defendant and talk to them and really get a feel for whether that particular defendant is really good for these particular RICO charges, and if they're not, there's motions that can be filed and there's obviously negotiations that can be had with the prosecutors. Once the prosecutors see that a good attorney is on it and the attorney can show them that it's unfair to be charging their client with a RICO violation, then they're in a much stronger position to get out of the RICO charges and get a charge that fits them or even fight the case at a jury trial if there's no evidence to prove the case against them,
Obviously, you really want to sit down and strategy that from the beginning because you don't want to fight a federal criminal case with racketeering charges attached to it unless you have a good chance of winning, because if you lose, you're going to get a boatload of time and there's not much you can do about it, so you want to make sure you have a good angle, and that's one of the first things that I do when I sit down with the family, with the client — really try to get the strategy together that makes sense for them and we evaluate whether the RICO charges against them are valid or not valid. If they're not, we're going to fight. We're going to file motions. We're going to speak to the prosecutor about getting rid of those charges because they're not applicable to a particular defendant.
Sometimes the prosecutors don't agree. Sometimes the prosecutors have a different view of the evidence that they have. They talk to witnesses. They talk to cooperators. So, they're looking at things a little differently than the defense, and that's where again, you're going to want to make the right decision and see whether the prosecutors can really make a good argument that someone is involved in a RICO filing and they've got the elements met to prosecute the person for a RICO filing, and that's why when I sit down with a person, we're going to go over what the law is related to the RICO charges and how that law might apply to their situation.
Evaluating the Strength Of the Case
So, obviously, we're going to need to have good, solid, accurate facts. I need the person to be honest, tell me the truth so that I can really evaluate whether the federal government is going to be able to make a run at convicting them. One thing a lot of people don't realize and when people start getting arrested charged with crimes where they're looking at many years in federal prison, the next thing you know is they're cooperating with the government. So, some people don't realize that eventually the government is going to find out about whatever it is that person knows because they're going to tell them and they're going to give information about a particular person. If that person is you, obviously you want to bear that in mind and be ready to either defend that or work out a deal with the government so they cannot use that information against you as effectively because you're cooperating with them.
This is one of the biggest decisions that needs to be made. Are you going to cooperate? Can you cooperate? Or, is it a situation where you're not cooperating? You're either going to take your medicine and work out a deal or you're going to fight the case all the way to the end. These are some of the issues that are being talked about by the best criminal defense attorneys and their clients.