Both. Racketeering is both a Nevada crime under NRS 207.400 and a federal crime under 8 U.S.C. § 1961-1968. Racketeering under federal law is called RICO (short for Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act). Depending on the case, a racketeering suspect can be prosecuted in Nevada state court, Nevada federal court, or both.
The Nevada crime of racketeering is criminal activity that is conducted in furtherance of an unlawful business. Racketeering typically occurs in the context of the mafia, gangs, gambling rings, and other organized crime syndicates.
Racketeering is not one event. Rather, it is the commission, attempt, or conspiracy to commit no fewer than two (2) racketeering-related crimes within a five (5) year span. (Under federal racketeering law in Nevada, the time span is ten (10) years.)
Some racketeering-related crimes include:
- voluntary manslaughter
- involuntary manslaughter
- felony battery
- sexual assault
- larceny from a person
- statutory sexual seduction
- extortionate collection of debt
- ID theft
- resisting a public officer
- grand larceny
- felony bribery of a public officer or judicial officer
- battery with intent to commit a crime
- assault with a deadly weapon
- drug crimes, including trafficking
- receiving a stolen car or stolen goods valued at $1,200 or more
- embezzlement of property valued at $650 or more
- human trafficking
- involuntary servitude
- sex trafficking
- offering false evidence
- possession of money by false pretenses
- carrying a concealed weapon with no permit
These crimes have to share common patterns, intentions, and other distinguishing characteristics in order to qualify as racketeering. Federal courts rely on a “continuity-plus-relationship” test to determine whether the offenses have similar goals, results, parties, victims, procedures, or are otherwise related. (See Sedima S.P.R.L. v. Imrex Co., 741 F.2d 482, 487-88 (2d Cir. 1984), rev’d, 105 S. Ct. 3275 (1985)).
Racketeering is prosecuted in Nevada as a category B felony. The sentence is five to twenty (5 – 20) years in Nevada State Prison and maybe fines of either:
- up to $25,000, or
- up to three (3) times the gross pecuniary value the defendant obtained or caused to lose (such as property damage and personal injuries), whichever is greater.
The defendant is also responsible for court costs and reasonable costs of the investigation and prosecution.
A federal racketeering conviction carries a sentence of up to $250,000 in fines and/or up to twenty (20) years in Federal Prison. Note that judge can increase the punishment to a life sentence if the racketeering involved crimes that that carry life imprisonment, such as murder.
Potential defense strategies to Nevada and federal racketeering charges include the following:
- The racketeering offenses are not related enough. Racketeering charges apply only if the defendant committed interrelated offenses. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant’s actions were independent of each other, then the charges should be dropped.
- The defendant had no criminal intent. Nevada racketeering charges should not stand if the defendant did not knowingly carry out racketeering activities. If the prosecution fails to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty, the case should be dismissed.
- The police committed an unlawful search. Racketeering investigations typically involve extensive police searches and seizures. But sometimes police cut corners and forget to get a warrant when necessary, or their warrant is void. If the police may have seized evidence unlawfully, the defense attorney could file a Nevada motion to suppress evidence. These motions ask the judge to throw out any evidence that has been obtained illegally by the police. Depending on the what the judge does, the D.A. could be left with too weak a case to continue prosecution.
Note that people suspected of racketeering under Nevada law are prosecuted by the Nevada Attorney General instead of the D.A.’s office.