The recent conviction of leaders of a notorious Armenian gang operating in Southern
California is the latest victory of the Federal RICO law targeting organized criminal activity.
The leaders were found guilty of participating in racketeering, particularly extortion, bank
fraud and identity theft. They face lengthy imprisonment sentences, as much as 973 years
for one leader who was found guilty of 57 criminal counts. The severe penalties of RICO
highlight the importance of criminal defense strategy for anyone who may be wrongfully
accused of racketeering.
What is RICO and racketeering?
RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations. It is a federal law
designed to fight organized crime.
The law covers a wide range of racketeering or illegal activities such as illegal gambling,
arson, murder, kidnapping, extortion, dealing in controlled substances, counterfeiting and
white collar crimes. RICO also punishes various frauds including fraud in connection with
access devices, identification documents, mail fraud and wire fraud.
In the recent case involving the Armenian gang, its leaders were prosecuted for several
criminal acts including extortion, stealing personal and financial information of elderly bank
customers, and skimming credit and debit cards from thousands of customers at a popular
discount store in Southern California.
Pattern of racketeering activity
Because of the severe imprisonment and financial penalties associated with a RICO
conviction, a single criminal activity is not enough to merit a conviction under this law.
The law requires evidence beyond reasonable doubt that the accused has committed at
least two of the predicate crimes listed in RICO, occurring within ten years from the other.
Who may be prosecuted for RICO?
Anyone, not only organized crime syndicates, gangs and nefarious groups, can be
prosecuted under RICO. So, individuals, corporations, partnerships, associations and
other entities, even those with legitimate origins, can be investigated and charged for
racketeering. This has exposed ordinary citizens and law abiding businesses to the
hassles of RICO investigations.
Due to the broad reach of RICO, the racketeering law has also been used in other
situations such as the blocking of pro-life activists and prosecution of clergy suspected of
While RICO is a powerful tool against organized crime, it can also be an oppressive
mechanism against legitimate businessmen who may have to deal with searches and
seizures, thorough reviews of financial and accounting records, and other incidents of
investigation which can disrupt business operations.
If you are under investigation or are facing charges of RICO activities in the Los Angeles
area, the law office of criminal defense attorney Larry M. Bakman can help you by
providing legal advice, developing defense strategies to protect and preserve your rights,
and handling all criminal procedures for you.