Legal experts believe prosecutors investigating Donald Trump’s business operations are considering the possibility of using a racketeering law that was enacted to crack down on the mob, Politico reported Thursday.
“No self-respecting state white-collar prosecutor would forgo considering the enterprise corruption charge,” veteran Manhattan defense attorney Robert Anello told Politico, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s probe into Trump and the Trump Organization. “I’m sure they’re thinking about that.”
The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was passed in 1970 as a way to combat organized crime. Similar state laws, like New York’s “little RICO,” carry stiff penalties, including prison. They can be used against businesses proven to have repeatedly engaged in criminal activity to maximize income.
Jeffrey Robbins, a white-collar attorney and former federal prosecutor, told Insider that it wouldn’t “surprise” him “in the slightest that, among other things, prosecutors are looking at whether there’s a basis to charge the [Trump] organization with racketeering.” He noted, however, that it’s too early to predict prosecutors’ plans.
RICO convictions typically involve a person engaging in a “pattern of criminal behavior” through an enterprise over a certain period of time for financial gain. The state law can be utilized with proof of as few as three crimes involving a business or other operation.
“It’s a very serious crime,” Michael Shapiro, a defense attorney who has prosecuted corruption cases in New York, told Politico.
“Certainly, there are plenty of things an organization or business could do to run afoul of enterprise corruption, if they’re all done with the purpose of enhancing the revenue of the enterprise illegally … it’s an umbrella everything else fits under,” he added.
Vance launched an investigation into the Trump Organization years ago. He has convened a grand jury that is expected to decide whether to indict Trump, other executives at his company, or the Trump Organization itself if prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, The Washington Post first reported Tuesday.
Vance’s investigators have probed various Trump Organization activities, including allegedly undervaluing property for tax purposes, and inflating values for bank loans, The New York Times has reported.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has slammed Vance’s investigation — and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel criminal probe of the Trump Organization — as politically motivated “witch hunts.”