August 10, 2006
DEFINITION OF RACKETEERING
By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked about the definition of “racketeering” and “collusion” and how they might apply to state or federal officials.
The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (18 USC §§ 1961-1968) prohibits (1) acquiring, establishing, or operating an enterprise with illegally derived income, (2) acquiring or maintaining an interest in or control of an enterprise through illegal activity, and (3) using an enterprise to commit illegal acts (Extortion, Blackmail, Etc., 31A Am Jur 2d).
RICO defines “racketeering activity” as a long list of state and federal crimes. The federal crimes include bribery, various fraud offenses, gambling offenses, money laundering, a number of financial and economic crimes, obstructing justice or a criminal investigation, murder for hire, and sexual exploitation of children. The state crimes include murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, and drug crimes.
It defines a “pattern of racketeering activity” as at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after RICO became law and the last of which occurred within 10 years after the prior act.
The Connecticut Corrupt Organizations and Racketeering Activity Act (CORA) (CGS § 53-393 et seq.) is patterned after RICO. CORA makes it a crime for anyone who has knowingly received proceeds from racketeering or loan sharking to invest those proceeds in the establishment or operation of any enterprise or in any real property.
Under CORA, “racketeering activity” means committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or intentionally aiding, soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit a specified list of felonies. These felonies include gambling activities, extortion, drug offenses, weapons offenses, murder, assault, prostitution, hazardous waste violations, securities violations, coercion, money laundering, arson, bribery, and forgery (CGS § 53-394(a)).
“Pattern of racketeering activity” means engaging in at least two incidents of racketeering activity that (1) have the same or similar purposes, results, participants, victims, or methods of commission or otherwise are interrelated by distinguished characteristics; (2) are not isolated incidents; (3) include at least one incident that occurred after October 1, 1982; and (4) occurred within five years of a prior incident of racketeering activity (CGS § 53-394(e)).
“Collusion” is not defined in either RICO or CORA, although the word “collusion” is used in a number of state contracting statutes. The Black's Law Dictionary definition of “collusion” includes a “secret combination, conspiracy, or concert of action between two or more persons for fraudulent or deceitful purpose.” This type of conduct would appear to be covered by both RICO and CORA.
Federal prosecutors have used RICO in cases involving public officials. Although we did not find a case involving CORA, it is likely that CORA could also apply to public officials since it includes crimes that apply to public officials such as bribe receiving (CGS § 53a-148) and receiving kickbacks (CGS § 53a-161c). How RICO or CORA could apply to state or federal officials would depend on the type of conduct involved. To provide an example, federal prosecutors alleged RICO violations in the complaint against Peter Ellef, a former co-chief of staff. An attached Hartford Court article describes the indictment. Ellef later plead guilty to other charges. A copy of the 54 page indictment is available on-line at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/ct/Documents/Ellef%20et%20al%20indictment.pdf.