There are numerous criminal offenses lumped together under the unofficial term “white-collar crime,” and racketeering involves some of the most severe charges under Texas law. In general, the crime of racketeering occurs when an organized crime ring uses or poses as a legitimate business operation to embezzle funds. This type of conduct first became unlawful in 1970 when Congress enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, which includes penalties of up to 20 years in prison for a conviction. State lawmakers followed up this legislative effort by passing the Texas Organized Crime Act in 1977, and the statute includes equally harsh punishment.
Like other Texas white collar crimes, racketeering cases are extremely complex. However, the complications affect both sides of a criminal case, so you need to level the playing field by working with a Galveston white-collar crime attorney. Some answers to frequently asked questions about racketeering may also be helpful.
What types of conduct do Texas racketeering laws prohibit?
Racketeering is a unique white-collar crime in the sense that it is based on an offense that is already illegal, such as:
- False imprisonment;
- Dealing in unlawful weapons or firearms;
- Drug dealing; or
- Child pornography.
The issue that raises these crimes to the level of racketeering is when they are accomplished – or attempted – in the context of an organized crime ring and larger scheme.
What does the prosecutor need to prove for a conviction in a racketeering case?
From the above description, you can see that the prosecution must first prove the underlying crime. Then, the prosecutor needs to also establish the elements of a racketeering charge, including the intent to establish, maintain, or participate in a combination to collaborate on criminal activity. Still, you should note that:
- Solely participating in the profits of an unlawful scheme is enough to prove a combination; and
- The definition of a combination includes criminal street gangs who bear a common identification symbol and regularly engage in criminal acts.
How do racketeering penalties compare to other white-collar crime punishments?
Under the Texas version of RICO, the starting off point is the underlying offense; from there, officials elevate the charge up one level to account for racketeering acts. For example, prostitution is a Class B Misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and $2,000 in fines. Participating in an organized scheme regarding prostitution is elevated for racketeering, so the offense is a Class A Misdemeanor. A judge could order up to one-year incarceration and a $4,000 fine. The exception is where the underlying crime is a First Degree Felony, which remains the same even after applying racketeering laws.
A Galveston Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Provide Additional Answers
If you were arrested for racketeering or have reason to believe you are being investigated, it is critical to retain skilled legal representation right away. Our team at the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates is well-versed in strategies for fighting the charges, so please contact us at (281) 280-0100 or visit us online. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and determine the next steps.