By Albany Attorney With Big Ears
Let’s get a few facts straight about RICO…
The overall purpose of the RICO statute is to allow for the prosecution of criminal acts that are committed as part of an ongoing criminal organization
In practice, a RICO prosecution usually focuses on the leaders of a criminal organization who order illegal acts to be committed – and allows those leaders to be prosecuted for those illegal acts. Example: If the leader of a criminal organization orders a member to murder someone else and the murder is carried out, the leader (along with the member who actually committed the crime) can be prosecuted for murder
RICO prosecutions are based on alleged illegal acts that constitute at least one of a list of 27 federal crimes or 8 state crimes. These are called “predicate offenses” and, of relevance to NXIVM and its leaders, they include such things as blackmail, bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering, slavery, theft, and bringing in aliens to the U.S. (or helping them enter) for financial gain
In order for RICO to be invoked, the defendant must have participated in at least two qualifying criminal acts within a 10-year period and the acts must be related to one another.
When a RICO case is initiated, the prosecution can seek a pre-trial restraining order or injunction that temporarily freezes a defendant’s assets and/or seek to have the defendant post a substantial performance bond. Either of those actions can make it difficult for a defendant to access the funds they need to hire a defense attorney (Looks like Clare has already gotten around this by establishing trusts to pay defense attorneys for her and others).
Anyone convicted under RICO can be fined up to $25,000 – and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison – per count. In addition, they can also be ordered to forfeit all ill-gotten gains and pay treble damages.
RICO also has a civil component that allows individuals to bring RICO actions against the leaders of criminal organizations. Successful plaintiffs may also be awarded treble damages. You can pretty much count on this happening after the criminal trials are over.
In addition to the federal RICO statute, a majority of states have also enacted their own RICO statutes (New York is one of those states). These state statutes generally expand the list of underlying crimes that can be used as the basis for bringing a RICO prosecution.
So, are RICO prosecutions a possibility as regards the leaders of NXIVM? Of course!
Will the Feds go that route? We’ll have to wait to find out.
If the Feds decide to indict Clare and/or Sara Bronfman, they might attempt to level the playing field by couching the case as a RICO prosecution – and seek to freeze at least some of their assets. But they could just as easily charge them under a variety of federal criminal statutes and/or make referrals for state prosecutions (The latter probably won’t happen until there’s a District Attorney in Albany County or Saratoga County that hasn’t bee compromised or corrupted by NXIVM).
And that ends today’s overview on RICO…
I was picturing a dude with big ears. I may not sleep tonight!
RICO has been around for almost 50 years and courts have proved very generous in allowing prosecutors to define all kinds of organizations RICO targets.
Moreover, Raniere as head of NXIVM and Mack as head of the slave harem DOS both qualify as leaders of his racket.
Yes RICO could happen here, but it’s not likely IMO……since they don’t need to use RICO here.
No I’m not a lawyer (and I realize the poster is a lawyer)…..but it’s just a coin flip as to what the EDNY will decide to do.
The truth is that there’s likely gonna be tons of IRS related indictments…..and also other charges like money laundering, wire fraud and possibly mail fraud, etc.
The max penalties for each count of money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud are 20 years each. In some cases 10 years, but it’s still a long time. The Feds don’t need RICO here.
The penalty for tax evasion is only 5 years I think, but when stacked with other non-related convictions (like sex trafficking or coerced labor) they can probably run consecutively.
Plus… The Feds can freeze & seize any assets involved with those other offenses too (money laundering, wire fraud, tax evasion, tax fraud).
Heck, the Feds can freeze & seize assets using civil forfeiture for much less than that.
I find it hard to believe that the Feds “need” RICO just to freeze/seize NXIVM related assets that were involved in other monetary crimes like money laundering, tax evasion, tax fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, etc.
Finally, although RICO can be used against any criminal entity……the truth is that RICO has a reputation as being an anti-mob law and the defense will mock the government if they overcharge. The jury are human beings, not lawyers.
My question is this… If the EDNY can convict Keith (and his financial backers) of money laundering or wire fraud or tax fraud, why the fuck do they need to add RICO to that?
The judge ain’t gonna send Keith to prison for a hundred years just because you stack a few RICO convictions on top of everything else. The judge will likely observe sentencing guidelines regardless of whether he’s required to or not. Keith will likely get the same sentence for money laundering and wire fraud as he will for RICO and money laundering together.
Maybe they will use RICO. But to me it seems illogical, and if I’m wrong then I’ll be back to EAT CROW. 🙂
If you re-read what I wrote, you’ll see that I never claimed the Feds “need” to bring RICO charges against Raniere or anyone else. What I said was that RICO prosecutions are a possibility – and that we’ll have to wait and see if the Feds choose to go that route.
The rest of your “analysis” focused on the various financial-related charges that might be brought in this case and the attendant penalties – and the fact that the Feds have other options besides RICO to freeze a defendant’s assets. For discussion purposes, let’s assume that all your assertions on these matters are correct.
The point about RICO that you overlook is that it can be used to bring criminal charges against someone who directed another person to commit a crime. Given the facts and circumstances that have emerged to date, that seems to be a situation that occurred quite regularly within NXIVM.
Your assertion that jurors would be put off by a RICO charge in this case because NXIVM is not a “mob” has not happened in other cases where the Feds have brought RICO charges against non-mob criminal organizations. And I would not discount the fact that the charges against Raniere et al are being prosecuted by the Organized Crimes & Gangs Division within the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is very familiar with RICO prosecutions in all sorts of situations.
For additional information, please go to: http://solopracticeuniversity.com/2015/12/14/please-do-not-confuse-your-google-search-with-my-law-degree/
RICO has been used extensively for non-mob cases over the past few decades. The defense will look like fools if they bring that up, the DOJ can provide a laundry list of non-mob RICO cases that have been successfully prosecuted.
Thank you for fighting the good fight and for sharing your insights and expertise.
With so much courtroom drama on the horizon, I look forward to your helping us fully understand what’s going on.
I’ve seen a RICO case in Federal Court, tried to a jury. Not a good day for the Defendant. Wound up with a 13 year sentence…
That is pretty mild given to what all these separate counts could amount to.
An old family acquaintance plead guilty in a RICO case. A large group of guys charged. Even though only a few of the group were actually involved in the acts that the charges were based on. They just charged a huge group of people to see who would plead and who would flip.
All except two of them plead out. Of the two that went to trial, one got 35 years and the other was acquitted. Both were actually innocent.
The family acquaintance was innocent, and took a 7 year deal even though he had solid alibi with receipts and witnesses that he was 1,800 miles away. He said he was guilty of so many things that he probably deserved the couple of years he would actually serve, and it was better than having them dig any deeper. He was rather shocked that with so much evidence of his innocence, they were still going to go to trial.
The innocent guy who got 35 years was with him, but his having plead guilty destroyed him being the guys alibi.
This happened in the EDNY.
It’s going to be a field day for parole hearings and appeals once those convicted suddenly realized that they had been the victims of brainwashing/undue influence. We won’t see that in this trial (not with these Bronfman bankrolled defense teams).
That was just for Hobbs Act (bribery). No allegations of tax fraud, human trafficking, branding, duress, coercion, extortion, rape, kidnapping, wire fraud, tax evasion, bulk cash smuggling, etc…
I think a driver ended up dead in a truck hijacking spree that involved kidnapping (even if temporary) and guns.
Just goes to show a few rogue guys can take down a whole group even if they had no knowledge or anything to do with it.