RICO Requires a Pattern of Racketeering Activity

          The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, more commonly referred to as RICO, is a federal law that provides for criminal penalties for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.  

 

          Florida has its own RICO law which requires that one have engaged "in at least two incidents of racketeering conduct that have the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims, or methods of commission or that otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated incidents, provided at least one of such incidents occurred after the effective date of this act and that the last of such incidents occurred within 5 years after a prior incident of racketeering conduct."

 

          In the case of the State of Florida versus Joseph Russo, Mr. Russo and others were charged with breaking Florida's RICO law by, among other things, committing the crime of trafficking in marijuana and conspiracy to traffic in marijuana.  In his defense, Russo argued that trafficking in cannabis and conspiring to do so actually constitutes only one incident of racketeering conduct, not two incidents which is what Florida's version of the RICO law requires.

 

          In response, the prosecutor argued that acts which are part of the same transaction can still qualify as distinct incidents of racketeering conduct if each incident requires proof of an element that the other does not.  Thus, in Russo's case, trafficking in cannabis and conspiring to traffic in cannabis are two distinct incidents of racketeering conduct because each requires proof of an element that the other does not.

 

           Fortunately for Mr. Russo, Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeal sided with him saying that Florida's RICO law requires two distinct incidents of racketeering activity rather than two acts which are part of the same transaction.  The Court of Appeal believed that this interpretation made it more likely that career criminals would be targeted by the RICO law rather than someone who was not a career criminal but who nevertheless happened to have committed two criminal acts in connection with the same transaction.

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