We will bring this blog series on civil RICO claims to a close with part IV; what is “racketeering activity?” In review, RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Racketeering activity is simply a list of criminal offenses under 18 U.S.C. § 1961(1). This long list of crimes includes robbery, kidnapping, embezzlement, misuse of a passport, counterfeiting, transmission of gambling information, and many more. Of the offenses listed in the statute, mail fraud and wire fraud are mostly commonly used to bring a civil RICO claim for the misappropriation of trade secrets and other business torts.
This makes sense. People use the phone (along with other “wire” communications) and mail services every day. As soon as someone uses those methods of communication to perpetuate a fraud, like stealing a business’s trade secrets, you have a potential claim.
It is important to keep in mind that a court does not need to find a person guilty of crime prior to pursuing a civil RICO claim. With that said, the business bringing the claim must be prepared to meet the burden of proof for establishing the criminal offense.
It is also important to keep in mind that applying the civil RICO statute to the misappropriation of trade secrets and other business torts is still developing law and cases are often dismissed. If successful, the damages are significant and include treble damages and attorney fees. With all this in mind, every business will need to make its own evaluation of the facts weighed against the potential for lengthy and costly proceedings in court.
If you have a potential civil RICO claim, our business litigation attorneys can help you assess the facts and determine your next step.