What is RICO?

Learn about RICO, a federal law aimed at combating organized crime in the United States. Discover its key provisions, examples, and statistics.


RICO stands for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. It is a federal law that was enacted in 1970 with the aim of combating organized crime in the United States. The law has since been used to prosecute a wide range of criminal activities, including drug trafficking, money laundering, and white-collar crimes.

Key Provisions

One of the key provisions of RICO is the ability to prosecute individuals who are part of a criminal organization, even if they have not personally committed the underlying crimes. This allows prosecutors to target the leaders and organizers of criminal enterprises, rather than just the foot soldiers.

Another important provision of RICO is the ability to seize assets that were acquired through illegal activities. This can help to cripple the financial resources of criminal organizations and deter others from engaging in similar crimes.


One of the most famous cases involving RICO was the prosecution of the Gambino crime family in the 1980s. The family’s leader, John Gotti, was convicted under RICO statutes and sentenced to life in prison.

More recently, RICO has been used to prosecute members of street gangs who engage in drug trafficking and other criminal activities. By targeting the leaders of these organizations, law enforcement officials hope to dismantle the entire enterprise.


According to the Department of Justice, RICO prosecutions have increased in recent years, with the number of cases rising by 20% between 2015 and 2019. This indicates that RICO continues to be a powerful tool in the fight against organized crime.


RICO is a complex and powerful law that has been instrumental in prosecuting organized crime in the United States. By targeting the leaders and financiers of criminal organizations, RICO helps to dismantle these enterprises and deter others from engaging in similar activities.

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