Racketeering in Georgia Is a Felony Tricky to Define

Until about 50 years ago, it was harder to prosecute people for running criminal organizations, which often involve many people committing a variety of crimes for reasons sometimes difficult to connect to one another. Remembering that Al Capone was eventually imprisoned for tax evasion, U.S. law enforcement pressed to create, in essence, a law against being a mob boss.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, often called RICO, was enacted in 1970. Since then, various states have passed similar laws often based on the federal RICO, in part to allow prosecution of smaller criminal enterprises than the federal government usually handles.

Georgia has its own RICO

Definitions of racketeering can sound vague, but in a sense that’s the point of RICO laws. Georgia’s statute makes it illegal “through a pattern of racketeering activity or proceeds derived therefrom, to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise, real property, or personal property of any nature, including money.”

Lawsuits can also be filed in civil court under the same laws by “any aggrieved person or the state.” If actual damages are found to have been inflicted, the racketeer can be responsible for them three times over (treble damages) in addition to punitive damages and legal costs.

A pattern of racketeering activity

Racketeering is engaging in a pattern of racketeering activities, so there’s still the obvious question of what these racketeering activities are.

A section of the statue provides a list too long to reproduce here.

It includes alcohol moonshining, music or movie bootlegging, prostitution or pimping or distributing obscene material, assault and battery, murder, arson, terrorism, forgery, bribery, witness tampering, impersonating an officer, and a good deal more.

While these are all crimes by themselves, racketeering implies combining some of these to run an ongoing criminal conspiracy.

Besides civil remedies, Georgia racketeering can land you in prison for 5 to 20 years and cost you fines of up to $25,000 or three times the value of whatever you made from racketeering.