Filing a RICO Claim in Pennsylvania
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act was enacted in 1970 to help combat racketeering in the United States. The Act allows individuals and businesses harmed by ongoing criminal enterprises and organized crime to bring claims against RICO violators and seek compensation for damages and legal fees.
If you believe you may have grounds for a RICO Act claim, contact van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin right away. Our Philadelphia civil RICO attorneys have more than two decades of experience in this highly complex area of law—we know how to navigate the legal process and fight for the maximum compensation you are owed. We offer aggressive, results-focused representation and are not afraid to fight for our clients in court if necessary.
What Is the RICO Act?
The RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act was originally designed to counter efforts by organized crime groups, such as the mob and the mafia, to consolidate power and wealth through unlawful means. Today, the RICO Act can be used in both public and private civil lawsuits against any individual or organization that violates the provisions set forth by the Act.
Generally speaking, RICO prohibits any individual or organization from establishing, operating, acquiring, or investing in a business or business venture with funds or income obtained through a “pattern of racketeering” or racketeering activities.
“Racketeering” is a term used to refer to a wide range of criminal activities, including extortion, money laundering, bribery, fraud, and others. When someone establishes, operates, acquires, or invests in a business venture through any of these or other specified illegal activities, or uses a business to carry out illegal activities, this is considered racketeering.
Proving a Civil RICO Claim
Individuals, businesses, and other entities that suffer financial losses due to racketeering may be eligible to bring a civil RICO lawsuit against the violator.
There are two main things that must be proved for a RICO claim to be successful:
- Violation of the RICO Act: First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant committed illegal activity that violated the RICO Act. This includes a wide range of crimes, including extortion, blackmail, money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and more. For RICO claims involving fraud, the court will likely apply a legal theory known as “strict scrutiny,” which is the highest standard of review used to evaluate the constitutionality of various laws.
- Pattern of Racketeering/Criminal Activity: To successfully prove a RICO claim, the plaintiff will also need to establish that there was a pattern of racketeering/criminal activity. This means that there must have been at least two crimes or two criminal offenses, and these offenses must be continuous and/or related. The criminal activities in question must typically have lasted or been conducted over at least one year.
At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our Philadelphia civil RICO claims attorneys conduct exhaustive investigations and evaluate all available evidence when building cases on behalf of our clients. We know how to meticulously review all pertinent details and develop powerful, innovative legal strategies tailored to the specific situation at hand.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on RICO Claims?
Civil RICO claims are subject to a five-year statute of limitations, as enforced by the Supreme Court. This means that you have five years from the date of alleged criminal activity to file a RICO Act lawsuit. However, if you did not discover the criminal activity right away, the statute of limitations will be deferred from the date on which you discovered the criminal activity or reasonably could have discovered the criminal activity. In other words, you will have five years from the date on which you actually discovered or reasonably could have discovered the criminal activity to sue the defendant for damages.
Damages in Civil RICO Claims
The purpose of filing a civil lawsuit against a party that has violated the RICO Act is to recover damages. The unlawful acquisition, operation, or establishment of a business through criminal activity can lead to significant financial losses. By suing the liable party, you can recover compensation for certain damages resulting from racketeering/RICO Act violations.
The law allows plaintiffs to seek the following damages in RICO Act lawsuits:
- Treble damages
- Attorney fees
- Litigation costs
“Treble damages” simply means three times the actual loss suffered as a result of the defendant’s conduct. In other words, you can recover three times the amount you lost, as well as compensation for litigation and attorney expenses in a successful civil RICO Act lawsuit.