John Watson Law Group LLC

Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO)

Sometimes there are extraordinary remedies available in addition to the normal lawsuit to enforce a business obligation.  One such possible course of action is civil RICO.  RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations.  It initially was enacted as a federal law to combat organized crime, and many states adopted similar laws.  In addition to the strict criminal provisions, there are civil provisions.  This will address the Georgia RICO laws.

RICO cases are somewhat rare, but clients nonetheless should be cognizant of the RICO laws.  Simply put, the RICO statutes set forth activities that are considered patterns of racketeering activity.  These are often referred to as Predicate Acts.  A minimum number of these predicate acts must have occurred within a specified period.  In Georgia two or more predicate acts within four years is the trigger.  The Plaintiff must have been directly injured as a result of at least one of the predicate acts.

The list of predicate acts is long and detailed, but examples in Georgia include fraud, theft by deception, credit card fraud, certain activities involving automobile titles, certain types of forgery, and many more, often esoteric, offenses.  In addition, the predicate acts under the federal RICO laws are recognized, which include wire fraud and mail fraud.

Civil RICO is the Special Forces of litigation - it is a Force Multiplier.  If RICO activity is found and proven, the court may award not only actual damages but also interest and punitive damages.  The real power of civil RICO, however, is a provision allowing treble damages.  In other words, the actual damages, interest and punitive damages are totaled and then multiplied by three.  This office once sued a RICO case involving a $1,000,000 investment, and, after trial, a verdict was rendered exceeding $30,000,000.  There were multiple counts in the complaint.

 Moreover, there are further provisions whereby the court has the authority to enjoin the defendant from further similar activity and to even order that an enterprise be dismantled and assets forfeited. 

These laws should not be abused, but where appropriate provide an extremely powerful tool.  When faced with a simple suit on breach of contract, a debtor may try to settle for, say, 40%; however, when RICO is in the mix, paying 100% to make RICO go away can all of a sudden look quite attractive.

 This office pays close attention to the facts of a potential case to see if a RICO claim might be present.

Website Builder