The U.S. Department of Justice states that before defendants can receive a conviction for violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, there must be proof that they participated in an ongoing pattern of racketeering activity. This is just one of several factors the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt before charging those who allegedly violated the RICO statute.
Predicate crimes are the underlying violations that make up a racketeering charge. The government must establish that those suspected of violating the RICO statute committed two or more predicate crimes within a determinable period of time.
The importance of a pattern
There must be a pattern of predicate acts to show defendants did not simply commit one crime but became participants in criminal activity that was ongoing. These crimes must also show a relation to one another. For example, if a group of people performs several bank robberies over the span of several months, this indicates a pattern. Comparatively, if a group of people performs one bank robbery as part of a larger scheme, this does not necessarily exhibit a pattern.
Several factors determine whether or not a pattern of illegality exists. These include:
- The number of crimes committed and their complexity
- The number of perpetrators involved
- The length of time the crimes committed span
- The nature of the crimes
A pattern does not exist if several different criminal acts occur that contribute to an overarching scheme. For example, one act of murder does not constitute a pattern, even if several attempts leading up to the event occurred. Rather, two attempts at bribery or extortion over a specified period of time contribute to a pattern.
Types of predicate crimes
Many different types of crime can fall under the category of predicate crime. For example, the government may consider money laundering, embezzlement, drug crimes, mail fraud, robbery, kidnapping, gambling and forgery predicate crimes if they contribute to an alleged RICO violation.