Federal and New York state racketeering laws generally make it a separate crime for a criminal organization or enterprise to receive income by means such as a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debts. Like the federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which criminalizes certain kinds of activities relating to any such enterprise engaged in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, Article 460 of the New York Penal Law also prohibits the offense termed “enterprise corruption.” The enterprise corruption statute is New York’s version of the federal RICO Act and was introduced to the Penal Law by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1986 to combat the “diversified illegal conduct engaged in by organized crime.”
Thus, while federal RICO is aimed specifically at criminal organizations, the New York statute also encompasses activity by legitimate enterprises that have been infiltrated and corrupted in order to be used for criminal purposes.
The crime of enterprise corruption consists of several elements, each of which must be proved by the prosecution in order to obtain a conviction.
The statue provides that a person is guilty of enterprise corruption if he or she, knowing that a “criminal enterprise” exists and of the nature of its activities, and being employed by or associated with such enterprise, he or she: (a) intentionally conducts or participates in the affairs of the enterprise by participating in a pattern of criminal activity; (b) intentionally acquires or maintains an interest in or control of an the enterprise by participating in a pattern of criminal activity; or (c) participates in a pattern of criminal activity and knowingly invests any proceeds derived from that conduct, or any proceeds gained by the investment or use of those proceeds, in the enterprise. The enterprise that is corrupted does not have to be the criminal enterprise by which the person is employed or with which he or she is associated, and may be a legitimate enterprise.
One of the most important issues that come up in the course of a RICO case in NYC is the question of what is a “pattern of criminal activity.” Generally, such a pattern is found when the defendant has committed at least three of the criminal acts, with at least each act being within 3years of the other, and with all the criminal acts having the same purpose of advancing or supporting the criminal enterprise.
Thus, to convict a defendant of enterprise corruption, the prosecution must generally prove the following elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) the defendant participated in a pattern of criminal activity (2) by engaging in one of the three proscribed forms of conduct (conducting or participating in the affairs of an enterprise through a pattern; acquiring or maintaining an interest in or control of an enterprise through a pattern; or investing the proceeds of a pattern in an enterprise); and (3) the defendant knew of the existence of a criminal enterprise and the nature of its activities and was employed by or associated with that enterprise.
Enterprise corruption is a “B” felony. Conviction can result in a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison. The New York enterprise corruption statute also provides that, if convicted, the defendant may have to pay a fine that is either 3 times the amount he gained or 3 times the amount of the loss he caused, whichever is greater. While the gains of the defendant have to be pecuniary gains for the purpose of this fine, the losses mentioned here can include money losses, but also personal injury, property damage, and other kinds of losses. Alternatively, the judge may choose to impose criminal or civil forfeiture instead of the statutory fine.
Federal and New York RICO criminal cases are highly complex, and the penalties can be quite severe. If you find yourself the target of an investigation, or are arrested and charged with RICO violations or enterprise corruption, you should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Call our experienced NYC criminal defense attorneys at (212) 577-6677 to schedule an immediate consultation.