Legal Term Tuesday: Racketeering


Legal Term Tuesday: Racketeering

Justin Lavelle

November 11, 2015

This is the latest entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

“What a racket!” You may have heard your grandparents use the phrase. But what actually is racketeering and does it only have to do with organized crime families? And can you find out if someone has “created a racket” on his or he public record? Read on to find out.

Racketeering is the signature organized crime. It involves offering a service (or racket) to customers who only need it because the racketeer created an artificial need in the marketplace for the service. The most common form of racketeering has to do with offering protection to businesses, to keep out thugs and other undesirable elements who may otherwise cause the business owner and his or her customers trouble.

Racketeering was formally made illegal in the US in 1970 with the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption (RICO) Act, which permitted law enforcement agents to charge individuals or groups with racketeering, according to Investopedia. The same source notes that racketeering can consist of any of 35 different but related crimes. Prosecutors have the flexibility of charging any individual or organization that commits two of the crimes within ten years with racketeering.

If convicted of racketeering, the maximum penalties include a $25,000 fine, 20 years in prison and the forfeiture of all business gains made from criminal activity. In addition, individuals or businesses impacted by the racket can sue in civil court for triple damages, according to FreeAdvice.

Racketeering rarely occurs in isolation and is often accompanied with other crimes such as extortion, bribery, theft and even murder. Additional protections have been put in place for whistleblowers who exposes racketeering operations, according to FreeAdvice.

Racketeering and related charges will show up on an individual’s public record in the form of misdemeanor and (more likely) felony charges associated with the crimes. Keep in mind that due to the ten year limit, a number of different charges convictions could be listed over the course of many years as part of one criminal operation.

Notable racketeering trials have involved the Key West Police Department, financier Michael Milken, the Latin Kings gang and Gambino crime family, according to

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.