Florida’s RICO Act

The Florida RICO (“Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization”) Act prohibits participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering.

The RICO Act created under Florida law closely mirrors the RICO Act created under Federal law, although significant differences exist.

Florida Statutes 895 allows prosecutors to charge a complete enterprise all at once. The Florida legislature specifically defined a criminal gang under 874 as one type of enterprise under Florida’s RICO Act.

Florida’s RICO statute also allows prosecutors to add historic convictions to a newly charged crime. To charge a RICO criminal violation, the prosecutor must first prove that an enterprise exists and then that the defendants committed individual predicate incidents in furtherance of the enterprise.

RICO prosecutions often involve complicated and voluminous wiretap evidence, business records, or other financial documents.

Effective July 1, 2016, Chapter 2016-24, amended the civil portions of the RICO statutes under Chapter 895. The new legislation allowed for an investigative agency on behalf of the state to institute a civil forfeiture proceeding for real or personal tangible and intangible property.

The new legislation for the RICO Act also states that a civil investigative subpoena is confidential for 120 days after its issuance. The subpoenaed person or entity may not disclose its existence to anyone other than their counsel.

Attorney for RICO / Racketeering in Tampa, FL

Contact the criminal defense attorneys at Sammis Law Firm to discuss any investigation involving a Florida’s RICO Act violation, including gang, drug trafficking, fraud, and other allegations involving organized crimes.

We represent clients charged with racketeering and conspiracy to racketeering in the greater Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough County, Bartow in Polk County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, and St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County, FL.

We aggressively fight white collar crime accusations and cases involving organized crime under state and federal law.

During the free initial consultation, we can discuss the charges pending against you, the potential penalties, and the best defenses that can be used to fight the charges.

Contact us today to set up a free consultation to discuss the case.

Call 813-250-0500.

Florida’s RICO or Racketeering Act

A violation of Florida’s RICO Act alleges participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering.

The crime is charged as a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in Florida State Prison. The elements of the offense include:

  1. The person arrested for racketeering was associated with an enterprise;
  2. The person arrested for racketeering either directly or indirectly participated in the enterprise by engaging in at least two incidents of “racketeering activity;” and
  3. For those incidents in which the person arrested for racketeering was engaged, at least two of them had either similar or the same types of the following:
    • victims;
    • intents;
    • results;
    • accomplices;
    • methods of commission; or
    • were interrelated by distinguishing characteristics that were not isolated incidents.

Florida law defines “racketeering activity” as committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, soliciting to commit, coercing to commit, or intimidating another person to commit any of the criminal charges listed in Florida Statute Section 895.02(1)(a) that could be charged by information, indictment, or petition.

The prosecutor is not required to prove that any predicate acts or the RICO enterprise involved any underlying economic motivation.

The charging document is not required to identify the relationship between the defendants and the crimes alleged on its face.

Statute of Limitations for RICO Violations under Florida Law

At least one of the predicate acts forming the pattern of racketeering activity must have commenced or begun within five (5) years after the cause of action accrues or the conduct terminates.

At least two predicate incidents forming the pattern of racketeering activity must have occurred within five years of each other.

In other words, the statute of limitations is five (5) years for any crime charged under Florida Statute Section 895.04(1) for engaging in an activity violating the provisions of s. 895.03, which is a felony in the first degree.

Under 895.05(11), there is a five-year statute of limitations for all RICO offenses. Expiration of the Statute of Limitations on one of the underlying “predicate” offenses prohibits it from being prosecuted separately as a stand-alone offense. Still, it does not necessarily prohibit its use as a predicate offense under F.S. 895.02(8)(a).

Contact a federal criminal defense attorney in Tampa to learn more about the statute of limitations for RICO cases prosecuted in federal court.

Local Procedures for RICO Prosecutions in Hillsborough County, FL

According to Hillsborough County’s Administrative Order S-2020-014, which supersedes Administrative Order S-2017-009, the circuit criminal division found it necessary to update the provisions regarding the assignment of drug-related offenses and RICO charges.

Under the recent administrative order effective on February 24, 2020, all newly filed cases charged a violation of the Florida RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) Act (sections 895.01 – 895.06, Florida Statutes) are assigned to the division that was identified as the proposed division.

All pending cases involving any defendant charged in the indictment or information will be transferred to the division to which the RICO case is assigned.

In 2023, the Florida Legislature also amended Section 895.02, F.S., to add the crime of human smuggling to the list of crimes that allow for prosecution under Florida’s RICO Act.

Elder Exploitation and Racketeering

The RICO Act in ss. 895.01-895.06, F.S., defines “racketeering activity” to include the following:

“committing, attempting to commit, conspiring to commit, or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit any exploitation of an elderly person or disabled adult.”

Under Section 775.0844(5), F.S., a person convicted of an aggravated white collar crime can be sentenced to pay the following:

  • a fine of $500,000 or double the value of the pecuniary gain or loss, whichever is greater;
  • all court costs; and
  • restitution to each victim of the crime.

Section 895.03, F.S., provides that it is unlawful for any person:

  • Employed by, or associated with, any enterprise to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in such enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity or the collection of an unlawful debt.
  • Through a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt, to acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in or control of any enterprise or real property.
  • Who with criminal intent has received any proceeds derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity or through the collection of an unlawful debt to use or invest,
    whether directly or indirectly, any part of such proceeds, or the proceeds derived from the investment or use thereof, in the acquisition of any title to, or any right, interest, or equity in, real property or in the establishment or operation of any enterprise.
  • To conspire or endeavor to violate any of the previously-described activity.

Engaging in activity in violation of s. 895.03, F.S., is charged under Section 895.04(1), F.S., as a first degree felony.

Section 895.05, F.S., provides civil liability for violations of the Florida RICO Act, including forfeiture to the state of all property, including currency, used in the course of, intended for use in the course of, derived from, or realized through conduct in violation of the act.

Read more about crimes for exploiting an elderly person or disabled adult.

Additional Resources

Florida’s RICO Statute under Chapter 895 – Visit the website of the Florida Legislature to find the statutory scheme for offenses concerning racketeering and illegal debts under Chapter 896. Find the short title, definitions, prohibited activities and defenses, the criminal penalties and alternative fine and civil remedies, the RICO lien notice, and the disposition of funds obtained through forfeiture proceedings.

Civil RICO Claims: The Challenge of Alleging the “Pattern” Element – Article in The Florida Bar Journal authored by Karen D. Walker and Michael G. Tanner in the May 2002 Volume LXXVI, No. 5 Issue. The article discusses why Civil RICO claims are a potent weapon for plaintiffs but also tricky to plead successfully. The article also addresses why courts should scrutinize the allegations closely to ensure they show the “continuity plus relationship” required to establish a “pattern” of racketeering activity. The column is submitted on behalf of the Trial Lawyers Section of the Florida Bar.

Florida Gang Reduction through RICO Prosecutions – Visit the “Florida Gang Reduction” website of the Office of the Attorney General of Florida. The website explains Florida’s RICO Act and sets out a comprehensive and coordinated plan to reduce criminal gang activity in Florida through a statewide gang strategy. Find contact information for each Regional Gang Reduction Task Force. The website also features press releases on the Attorney General’s recent gang member convictions and prosecutions. Use the website to download the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction Report, now in its fifth year. The report serves as a set of metrics for determining the long-term success of reducing criminal gangs in Florida.

Jury Instructions for Federal RICO Criminal Forfeitures – Read more about the procedures for the criminal forfeiture of property in federal RICO cases under 18 U.S.C.§ 1963 when the indictment includes notice that the government will seek forfeiture of property as part of sentencing in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 1963. The trial court might give Instruction 6.18.1963 (RICO – Criminal Forfeiture of Property (18 U.S.C.§ 1963) in these cases. The jury instruction is given if a party requests a jury determination that the property is subject to forfeiture under Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2(b)(4).

This article was last updated on Thursday, April 13, 2023.