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…