Generally, a racket is an illegal business, usually run as part of organized crime. Therefore, engaging in a racket is called racketeering.
There are several forms of racketeering. The movies popularized the protection racket in which criminals demanded money from businesses in exchange for “protection” against crimes that the racketeers themselves instigated if unpaid (also called extortion). In modern times, racketeering is used to describe a business enterprise that is based on criminal activity, often through fraud, deception, and various kinds of theft.
In 1970, the United States enacted the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 USC §§ 1961-1968), commonly referred to as the “RICO Act”. The RICO Act allowed law enforcement officials to charge a person or group of people with racketeering, now defined as committing multiple violations of certain varieties within a specified period of time. While the purpose of the RICO Act was to eliminate organized crime in favor of legitimate organizations to allow them to operate in interstate commerce. However, the statute remains sufficiently broad to encompass many forms of illegal activity relating to almost any enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
Most states have now followed the lead of the federal government and enacted their own state RICO acts. Most of these state statutes give state authorities equivalent powers to investigate and prosecute racketeering activities. Arizona is one of these states.
In addition to criminal penalties, civil racketeering laws are also used in both federal and state courts to help victims recoup losses due to racketeering.
In Arizona, racketeering, and its related offenses, are listed in ARS § 13-2301 et seq. See also organized crime for the definition statute.
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