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What is civil RICO?

The Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or “RICO” Act, is a state law that provides for civil penalties and remedies against individuals and organizations that engage in certain types of criminal activity. Therefore, a plaintiff may bring a lawsuit against these individuals or organizations if they have fallen victim to their racketeering activity, including fraud, extortion, embezzlement, and other crimes.

Suppose a group of individuals conspire to set up a fraudulent investment scheme using false advertising and other deceptive practices to convince investors to hand over their money. Over time, the group might use various illegal means, such as wire fraud, to continue the scheme and defraud even more investors.

Under Florida law, the victims of this fraudulent investment scheme can bring a civil RICO lawsuit if they can prove that the individuals engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity that caused the victims harm. Additionally, the victims must prove that the defendants organized themselves in some kind of enterprise (like a company) to carry out the fraudulent scheme. If the victims can prove all the necessary elements of the action and win, they can recover damages and attorneys’ fees under the Florida RICO statute.

Need help with a civil RICO lawsuit? Schedule your consultation today with a top business litigation attorney.

What legal issues typically arise related to civil RICO?

The following disputes are among the most common to civil RICO:

  • Proof of racketeering activity: One of the critical legal issues in a civil RICO case is proving that the defendant(s) engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity. Establishing such a pattern might require the plaintiff to provide detailed evidence of the specific acts of racketeering activity and their relationship to the alleged enterprise.
  • Standing: Another legal issue in civil RICO cases is determining whether the plaintiff has standing to bring a lawsuit. The defendant must have targeted the plaintiff with false statements or misrepresentations directed toward them and not to a third party.
  • Statute of limitations: The statute of limitations is a legal issue in many civil RICO cases. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a civil RICO claim is four years from the date of the last racketeering activity.
  • Causation: The plaintiff must show that the defendant(s) racketeering activity was the cause of their injury. Causation is typically a complex legal issue, mainly if other factors may have contributed to the plaintiff’s injury.
  • Proof of damages: To recover damages in a civil RICO case, the plaintiff must prove that they suffered actual damages due to the defendant(s) racketeering activity. Such proof might require the plaintiff to provide detailed evidence of their financial losses and the specific role of the defendant(s) in causing those losses.

What are relevant laws related to civil RICO in Florida?

The relevant Florida Statutes related to civil RICO include the following:

  1. Chapter 895—This is Florida’s civil RICO statute. This statute establishes the elements of a civil RICO claim in Florida and provides the framework for filing a lawsuit.
  2. Section 772.103—This section sets out other prohibited activities which could be closely related to civil Rico.
  3. Section 772.104—This section creates a civil cause of action for any person who proves, by clear and convincing evidence, an injury resulting from a violation of Section 772.103, which would entitle the plaintiff to treble damages.
  4. Federal RICO laws—Civil RICO claims in Florida can also be based on the federal RICO laws in Title 18, Chapter 96 of the United States Code. These laws provide additional options for pursuing a civil RICO claim, mainly if the alleged racketeering activity involved activity that crossed state lines or had other federal implications.
  5. Case law—There is a significant body of case law related to civil RICO in Florida, which can help inform the legal issues involved in a particular case. This case law includes both state and federal cases and covers a wide range of issues related to civil RICO, including standing, proof of racketeering activity, and damages.

Overall, anyone pursuing a civil RICO claim in Florida should be familiar with the relevant statutes, case law, and federal RICO laws to ensure they are building a solid case and following the appropriate legal procedures.

What is required to prove a case of civil RICO in Florida?

To prove a case of civil RICO in Florida, a plaintiff must establish several elements, including:

  • Racketeering activity—The plaintiff must show that the defendants engaged in at least two acts of racketeering activity, as defined by Florida’s RICO statute. Racketeering activity may include a wide range of illegal conduct, such as fraud, embezzlement, money laundering, and extortion;
  • Enterprise—The plaintiff must demonstrate the defendant’s association with an official or unofficial enterprise, which can be legal or illegal. The enterprise must have some degree of structure and continuity and may include a corporation, partnership, or criminal organization;
  • Relationship—The plaintiff must establish a connection between the racketeering activity and the enterprise, showing that the activity was conducted through or on behalf of the enterprise;
  • Causation—The plaintiff must prove by clear and convincing evidence that they suffered an injury via racketeering activity in violation of Florida’s RICO Act; and
  • Damages—The plaintiff must show that they suffered actual damages due to the racketeering activity, such as lost profits or other economic losses.

When a set of facts is appropriate to meet the requirements of civil RICO, there are many paths a claimant may take. We are value-based attorneys at Jimerson Birr, which means we look at each action with our clients from the point of view of costs and benefits while reducing liability. Then, based on our client’s objectives, we chart a path forward to seek appropriate remedies, such as:

  • Injunctive Relief
  • Damages
  • Treble Damages- In some cases, a civil RICO lawsuit might include prohibited activities under Section 772.103, which give rise to treble damages.

To see what actions may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

What are common defenses to civil RICO in Florida?

The primary defenses to civil RICO in Florida include:

  1. No Racketeering Activity – The defendant may argue that the plaintiff failed to establish the required number of racketeering acts or that the alleged actions do not meet the definition of racketeering activity under Florida’s RICO statute or federal RICO laws.
  2. No Enterprise – The defendant may claim that no enterprise was involved in the alleged racketeering activity or that the enterprise was not a legitimate or distinct organization.
  3. No Relationship – The defendant may argue that there was no relationship between the racketeering activity and the enterprise and that the activity was independent of the enterprise.
  4. Lack of Causation or Damages – The defendant may contend that the plaintiff cannot establish that the alleged racketeering activity caused harm or that the plaintiff suffered no resulting damages.
  5. Statute of Limitations – The defendant may argue that the claim is time-barred and that the plaintiff failed to file the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations.

Defending against a civil RICO claim is often complex and requires a detailed understanding of the legal issues and evidence in the case. One core strategy for defending against a civil RICO lawsuit is to disprove one or more of the elements of the claim and demonstrate that the plaintiff has failed to prove what is necessary to keep their case.

To see what defenses may be available for your unique situation, please contact our office to set up your initial consultation.

Have more questions about a civil RICO-related situation?

Crucially, this overview of civil RICO does not begin to cover all the laws implicated by this issue or the factors that may compel the application of such laws. Every case is unique, and the laws can produce different outcomes depending on the individual circumstances.

Jimerson Birr attorneys guide our clients to help make informed decisions while ensuring their rights are respected and protected. Our lawyers are highly trained and experienced in the nuances of the law, so they can accurately interpret statutes and case law and holistically prepare individuals or companies for their legal endeavors. Through this intense personal investment and advocacy, our lawyers will help resolve the issue’s complicated legal problems efficiently and effectively.

Having a Jimerson Birr attorney on your side means securing a team of seasoned, multi-dimensional, cross-functional legal professionals. Whether it is a transaction, an operational issue, a regulatory challenge, or a contested legal predicament that may require court intervention, we remain a tireless advocate every step of the way. Being a value-added law firm means putting the client at the forefront of everything we do. We use our experience to help our clients navigate even the most complex problems and come out the other side triumphant.

If you want to understand your case, the merits of your claim or defense, potential monetary awards, or the amount of exposure you face, you should speak with a qualified Jimerson Birr lawyer. Our experienced team of attorneys is here to help. Call Jimerson Birr at (904) 389-0050 or use the contact form to set up a consultation.

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