According to Politico
, legal experts believe prosecutors investigating Donald Trump
operations are considering using a racketeering law enacted to combat the mob against his enterprises.
“No self-respecting state white-collar prosecutor would dismiss the enterprise corruption charge,” veteran Manhattan defense attorney Robert Anello told Politico, referring to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
’s investigation into Trump and the Trump Organization
The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) was enacted in 1970 to combat organized crime
. Similar state laws, such as New York's "little RICO," carry harsh penalties, including prison
, and can be used against businesses that have repeatedly engaged in criminal activity to maximize income.
Jeffrey Robbins, a former federal prosecutor and white-collar attorney, told Business Insider that it wouldn't "surprise" him "in the least" that prosecutors are "looking into whether there's a basis to charge the [Trump] organization with racketeering." He added, however, that it's too early to predict prosecutors' plans.
RICO laws typically involve a person engaging in a "pattern of criminal behavior" through an "enterprise" over a specific period of time for financial gain, and the state law can be used with proof of as few as three crimes involving a business or other enterprise.
Michael Shapiro, a defense attorney who has prosecuted corruption cases in New York, told Politico, "It's a very serious crime."
“Certainly, there are a plethora of things an organization or business could do to run afoul of enterprise corruption, if they are all done with the intent of illegally increasing the enterprise’s revenue... it’s an umbrella under which everything else fits,” he added.
Vance has been investigating the Trump Organization for years, and he has convened a grand jury
that will decide whether to indict Trump, other executives at his company, or the Trump Organization itself if prosecutors present the panel with criminal charges, according to The Washington Post
According to The New York Times, Vance's investigators have looked into various Trump Organization activities such as allegedly undervaluing property for tax purposes and inflating values for bank loans.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has referred to Vance's investigation — as well as New York Attorney General Letitia James
' parallel criminal investigation
of the Trump Organization — as politically motivated "witch hunts."
The full Politico article is available here.