We don’t mean tennis rackets here. This is about a racket, or an illegal business operating as an arm of organized crime, also called the “Mob.” The business of running a racket is called racketeering.
There are a variety of rackets being run across the US, however the most well-known one (recognized from books and movies) is the protection racket. This means holding some poor businessman in exchange for a ransom of protection services.
The ironic thing about this is that if the protection money isn’t paid, those demanding it will commit the same crimes they say they’re protecting the business from in the first place. Quite the vicious cycle, and one that is difficult to break out of once it has started. Interestingly, the term racket comes from the Italian word for blackmail – ricatto.
Racket, however, is also a term used to describe an uproar caused by a crowd of really noisy, and sometimes undesirable, people. You’d likely not be surprised to learn the term came from Chicago gangsters selling tickets to lavish – usually out of control parties – by using threats and intimidation.
You might recall the movie The Sting with Robert Redford and Paul Newman and the great numbers racket scam they ran. The whole story centered around them scamming a big shot banker out of money through their sham numbers racket. The bottom line is that a numbers racket is considered to be an illegal lottery.
The origin of the term racketeering lies back in 1927 when the word was “invented” by the Employers’ Association of Chicago. They were referring to the somewhat questionable influence organized crime had on the Teamsters Union.
In 25 words or less, racketeering is operating an illegal business/scheme to make a profit and it is usually done by a structured group, e.g. the Mob. This includes crimes such as bribery, illegal gambling, and sexual exploitation of children. Racketeering is also referred to as white-collar crime and will include crimes like money laundering and extortion.
With the advent of racketeering, came the introduction of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (a.k.a. the RICO Act). This law let the police charge people or groups with racketeering. Of course, the politicians were hoping to get rid of organized crime infiltration into honest businesses and to stop the racketeering from proliferating.
They only way to accomplish that was to ensure the RICO Act had a broad enough base to cover illegal activities relating to any business or enterprise affecting foreign or interstate commerce.
Speaking of commerce, this raises the question of the labor unions in the US. Without a doubt, the most troublesome area of racketeering that the police are battling is labor racketeering. What happens here is that the racketeers extort/bribe union officers to get what they want. The goal, of course, being access to the union’s billion dollar pension funds.
This is one of the toughest areas of law in which to handle cases and requires an intricate knowledge of how various operations work. If you’re faced with a racketeering charge, consult with a board certified attorney with extensive experience in this area.
Daniel Wannamaker is a board certified criminal law specialist and has 24 years of criminal trial experience with proven results as a Dallas criminal defense lawyer practicing in Austin criminal defense and Houston Texas. To learn more, visit http://www.wannamakerlaw.com.