[Donald  Trump] He talks like a mafioso, he acts like a mafioso... his legal campaign was actually taking over a legitimate organization to run it criminally. — G. Robert Blakey, University of Notre Dame law professor
[Donald Trump] He talks like a mafioso, he acts like a mafioso... his legal campaign was actually taking over a legitimate organization to run it criminally. — G. Robert Blakey, University of Notre Dame law professor
Trump 'acts like a mafioso': why NY's AG may treat the Trump Organization like a mob racket in its criminal probe, according to legal experts
  • The Trump Organization and its CFO Allen Weisselberg are now facing criminal probes from the New York attorney general's office.
  • As part of those investigations, prosecutors could pursue racketeering charges under state "RICO" laws.
One route prosecutors could take is to treat the Trump Organization like an organized crime operation and seek charges under Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) laws.

Insider spoke with University of Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, who helped draft the 1970 federal RICO Act and similar legislation in 22 states, and Jeffrey Robbins, a white-collar attorney and former federal prosecutor, about how such laws could come into play.

The federal RICO Act was enacted in 1970 as a way to combat organized crime, and a majority of states have since passed similar laws.

But even though they've come to be associated with cases involving the mafia, Robbins said RICO laws can apply to any situations where organizations engage in criminal activity for the benefit of their officers or owners.

"The RICO statute is brought all the time in cases which do not involve physical violence, but which involve financial criminality, so it doesn't surprise me in the slightest that, among the things that prosecutors are looking at, [is] whether there's a basis to charge the organization with racketeering," Robbins said, though he added that it's too early to predict prosecutors' plans.

While they're complex and vary by state, RICO laws typically involve a person engaging in a "pattern of criminal behavior" through an "enterprise" over a certain period of time for their financial gain, according to Blakey.

Prosecutors could look at criminal activity involving not just the Trump Organization, but also Trump's use of the US government for his personal gain, Blakey added.

Compared to conspiracy or other charges prosecutors could pursue, racketeering charges carry much longer jail sentences and larger financial penalties.


"A five-year issue would become a twenty-year issue," Blakey said.

Also, instead of having to pay a (relatively) small fine, he said, the convicted person must forfeit assets and profits they gained because of their criminal activity, based on the value of the illegal transactions.

"It's flexible in amount, but it's mandatory," he added.

Blakey said that can make a huge difference in practice: "You're a dope dealer, you made $1 million dollars — you owe [the government] $1 million. You make $2 million — you owe [the government] $2 million. If it was just a fine for doing the dope, it would be $10,000."

There are also considerations around the narrative prosecutors might try to create to persuade a jury if a case against Trump or the Trump Organization went to trial.

"He talks like a mafioso, he acts like a mafioso... his legal campaign was actually taking over a legitimate organization to run it criminally," Blakey said.

... The simplest case would be a civil case without rackeetering charges, which would be easiest to win and could at least help prosecutors prove a symbolic point that "nobody is above the law," Blakey said.

Going the criminal route, with or without RICO charges, would be much harder because jury verdicts in criminal cases must be unanimous. And, he added: "You always run the risk of a diehard Trump supporter who will vote against you no matter what your evidence is."

Seeking racketeering charges in either a criminal or civil case would add yet another layer of difficulty for prosecutors.


"You have to show a pattern" of crimes, Blakey said. "More than a few, over a substantial period of time."
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-organization-rico-racketeering-new-york-attorney-general-criminal-investigation-2021-5