The origin of the term "racketeering" dates back to 1927 when it was originally found in a statement relating to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers Union of America, concerning organized crime's influence within their ranks. The term was formulated by the Employers' Association of Chicago which was an organization originally founded as a non-profit in 1902.
The group itself was originally established to hinder corrupt labor unions from signing up workers, and break up deceitful labor unions that were already formed within the City of Chicago, Illinois. Their first organized action was intervening in a strike aimed at telephone equipment manufacturers.
In future years the organization's emphasis on their original goal diminished significantly, concentrating instead on the employees who make up the workforce in human resource activity. In 1981, the group teamed up with the Midwest Industrial Management Association after previously amending their name in 1959 to the Employers' Association of Greater Chicago, forming a new entity.
In the early 1920's, the organization assisted in exposing attempts to extort money from owners of commercial properties, which ultimately brought an Indictment of the president of the Building Service Employees International Union, William Quesse. This Indictment eventually led to his imprisonment. They also set their sights on fledgling unethical unions in the grocery industry, asserting acts of vandalism and extortion as well as bombings. They later put pressure on unions in Chicago's ice and milk industries, accusing the unions of extortion, blackmail, illegal price fixing as well as launching anti-competitive consortiums.
At that time, (1920's through early 1930's) their attention to the illegal activities by labor unions proved to be so effective that the group's main concern became their fight against labor racketeering. They issued reports on the topic, estimating that the cost of racketeering at over $145 million annually which would be comparable to over $1.9 billion in today's monetary environment. Other reports detailed the increasing amount of bombings attributed to racketeering; with costs estimated at $500 million ($6.8 billion in today's dollars). They claimed that the battle to fight racketeering and its related bombings cost the City of Chicago more than the taxes its citizens paid to help finance the First World War.
But it's unclear if the organization's anti-racketeering campaign had any real major effect on the crime in general.
After Prohibition Was Repealed
With the repeal of the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933, specifically the Volstead Act, organized crime, which had a big stake in the bootlegging trade, had to find different approaches to fill the vacuum that arose from the shortfall of revenue which occurred from their loss of illegal alcohol sales.
Instead of organized crime decreasing, the repeal of the Amendment triggered just the opposite. Major crime syndicates and mobster families adjusted to other illegal economic ventures by taking control of legitimate businesses, using a number of them as fronts for their criminal enterprise.
Before and during that time period, Congress enacted numerous laws created to punish separate organized crime undertakings specifically, extortion, illegal gambling, the transport of stolen merchandise and usury (loan sharking), among others. Law enforcement also started getting tough on those who participated in other rackets such as *protection. But there was no individual offense for participating in organized crime as a whole.
*A protection racket is basically a type of extortion where a business person is promised protection from vandalism and other crimes relating to their merchandise and property by paying a defined amount of money at regular intervals. Usually associated with organized crime, these payments in many cases were remunerated to the person(s) that would cause the business or the proprietor harm if the protection was not agreed upon.
The Latter Half of the 20th Century
Organized crime continued to flourish in the decade of the 1950s and 1960s while Congress was in the midst of an almost twenty year debate how to address the growing problem.
Senate hearings began in 1951 spearheaded by Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, but the legislation that would finally make being a member of a criminal enterprise a crime by itself wasn't passed until 1970 when Congress passed the innovative RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, criminal statute 18 U.S.C.A. § 1963), which was incorporated as a part of the Organized Crime Control Act.
The objective of this new legislation was to legally penalize any organized enterprise or individual members of the organization that engaged in a long list of criminal undertakings defined as a pattern of racketeering.
The term enterprise will apply to any corporation, association, partnership or sole individual or other legitimate entity, together with any group of persons or operation which is linked, while in effect not a legal entity.
The expression pattern was defined as "at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of [RICO's passage] and the last of which occurred within 10 years … after commission of a prior act of racketeering activity."
Source: US Department of Treasury Website
Under federal law, the activity of racketeering involves a long list of criminal offenses such as felonies including murder, extortion, narcotic cases, and multiple types of fraud. In addition to the penalty for the underlying offense, being convicted under the RICO Act enhances the penalties by increasing the length of a prison sentence.
To view the complete list of all federal crimes covered under the RICO Act found on the US Treasury Department's Website, in addition to further explanation and information, click here.
The penalty for a RICO conviction is a mandatory ten years in prison (not counting any other mandatory minimum sentences of an underlying crime associated with it) and enables persons that have been financially injured by this pattern of criminal activity to seek redress through the courts as well. For the government to bring a case forward under the RICO Act, a minimum of two predicate crimes within a period of the prior ten years must have been perpetrated through the accused together with the criminal enterprise.
My personal experience as a former Assistant Federal Prosecutor in the federal branch of the criminal justice system offers the appropriate credentials to properly handle RICO charges in addition to all federal allegations presented by the government. When charges relating to federal racketeering crimes are asserted by the prosecution, my law office extends a strategic solution and well thought out defense to counter any criminal charges brought forward on a case by case basis.
To view my credentials and read what your options are if it's established that you've become the object of a federal racketeering investigation or have been arrested and charged with a crime associated with RICO charges, click here.