What are the Different Types of Racketeering?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 15 May 2019
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In legal terms, racketeering refers to conducting a business, or business activities, in an illegal manner or by using illegal means. Sometimes the entire business itself is illegal, such as drug trafficking, child pornography, or human trafficking. In other examples, however, the business itself may be legal, but the tactics or practices used in the business are illegal, such as extortion or money laundering. There are a number of crimes that may be part of an illegal enterprise, such as loan sharking, theft, and embezzlement, as well as bribery, counterfeiting, and kidnapping.

When many people here this term, they frequently think of the mafia. The mafia has certainly been involved in some of the more famous cases in many countries, but they are hardly the only group that has been guilty of the crime. The organization was famous for its protection schemes during the middle part of the 20th century. Protection racketeering worked by forcing businesses to pay money to the organization for "protection," which amounts to extortion according to most criminal laws. Interestingly, in most cases, the victims of a protection scheme were paying money to the organization to protect the business from harm from the same organization.


A legal business may be guilty of this crime if it employs illegal tactics to succeed, or if the business is essentially just a front for behind-the-scenes illegal activities. Casinos have historically been known for being the base of operations for a number of such schemes, including money laundering and counterfeiting. Another example of when a legitimate business operation employs illegal tactics or methods is when a real estate developer offers bribes to city or state employees in order to gain the approvals or permits needed to proceed with a project.

In the United States, anyone charged with racketeering faces tough criminal penalties, as well as the possibility of civil liability, under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) act. Originally enacted as an additional weapon in the government's legal arsenal to fight organized crime, RICO has had a much broader impact than originally anticipated. Due to the somewhat broad definition of this crime under the RICO statutes, a wide range of criminals have found themselves facing additional charges as a result. Basically, an individual may be charged under the act if he or she shows a pattern of illegal behavior by committing at least two of the many crimes listed in the act within a ten-year period.


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Post 5

Racketeering crime goes back many centuries. But then is wasn't a crime, just a part of war and feuding. Back in the 8th and 9th centuries, Vikings were pillaging many countries in Europe.

When they came to the monasteries, where lots of gold was kept, they made a deal with the religious leaders who lived in the monasteries. They took some of the gold and riches for protection money. In exchange, the Vikings promised not to ransack their monasteries.

The problem was, the next time the Vikings came back, they asked for more and more gold in exchange for leaving the religious leaders alone.

It seems there's nothing new under the sun!

Post 4

One type of racketeering that is really offensive to me is when those in real estate confront government people in city or state positions.

They bride the government workers in exchange for approving building permits that real estate employees will benefit from. I dislike seeing government employees involved in this kind of thing.

I wouldn't be surprising if there are cases of bribery in the highest government. Some unethical groups or businesses, no doubt, offer government officials personal bribes to make sure certain favors are done for the group or business.

Post 3

@titans62 - I don't remember all of the details of the case, since it happened a couple years ago, but I seem to remember something about racketeering charges. I think part of the problem was that some or most of the bank accounts were located overseas. The courts ended up having to decide whether those countries could use the racketeering act to get their money returned. I'm not sure about the final outcome, though,

Does anyone know what the most common racketeering crimes are? My guess would be that drug trafficking is towards to top. I think there is a lot of corporate theft that happens and we don't hear about it.

What are the minimum penalties if you are charged with racketeering under RICO? Does anyone know?

Post 2

I think I heard the term racketeering thrown around a lot when the Enron scandal was happening. I'm not sure if what they were doing fell into the racketeering definition or not. I think there was some type of embezzlement involved, but I don't know what else.

I was wondering, too, would the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme (or any Ponzi scheme for that matter) fall under racketeering? There was definitely fraud involved. Does anyone know what all of the final charges were?

Post 1

I never knew racketeering stretched as far as it does. I hear it used a lot on the news, but always thought it usually referred to drugs, not any illegal business.

I guess something else that would fall under racketeering today is gangs that do the same things as the mafia used to do where they charge businesses in their territories a price for protection. I'm sure there are a lot of other examples I can't think of.

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