The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was enacted by Congress in 1978. The intent of this Act was to battle organized crime. Prior to the establishment of RICO, prosecutors faced much greater challenges when trying to convict the heads of organized crime rings.
Instead, prosecutors had to settle with convicting an organization's lower ranking members. This is because prosecutors had to try to tie illegal activities directly to the bosses, who were keeping themselves out of the legal fray by having others commit the crimes.
But under RICO, prosecutors are only required to prove that a defendant manages and/or owns an organization and that the organization engages in one or more types of specific illegal activity and on a regular basis.
Typically, the term racketeering refers to running an illegal business, referred to as a "racket," or to the act of embezzling funds via the use of a legitimate organization. So, you may think that the only targets of racketeering charges are individuals who are part of gangs or organized crime families, but this is not the case. RICO can be applied in a variety of situations. For example, pro-life activists were charged with RICO violations for blocking abortion clinic entrances.
Charges under the RICO Act are serious regardless of the situation. But remember, if you are facing such charges it is up to the prosecution to prove its case against you. For this reason, when dealing with the authorities, avoid telling them anything that could be self-incriminating or signing any sort of confession without having legal representation present. An experienced federal criminal defense attorney can act on your behalf to help make sure your rights are not violated and that you receive fair treatment under the law.