Racket (crime)

Racket (crime)

A racket is an illegal business, usually run as part of organized crime. Engaging in a racket is called racketeering.

Several forms of racket exist. The best-known is the protection racket, in which criminals demand money from businesses in exchange for the service of "protection" against crimes that the racketeers themselves instigate if unpaid (see extortion). A second well known example is the numbers racket, a form of illegal lottery.

Traditionally, the word racket is used to describe a business (or syndicate) that is based on the example of the protection racket and indicates a belief that it is engaged in the sale of a solution to a problem that the institution itself creates or perpetuates, with the specific intent to engender continual patronage. One example is computer spyware that pretends to be detecting infections and offers to download a cleaning utility for a fee, being itself distributed by the maker of the cleaning utility.

In the example of a protection racket, the racketeer informs a store-owner that a substantial monthly fee will be required in exchange for protection. The concurrent "protection" provided takes the form of the absence of damage inflicted upon the store or its employees by the racket itself.

The term "racketeering" was coined by the Employers' Association of Chicago in June 1927 in a statement about the influence of organized crime in the Teamsters union.[1]


The RICO Act

On October 15, 1970, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (18 U.S.C. §§ 1961–1968), commonly referred to as the "RICO Act", became United States law. The RICO Act allowed law enforcement to charge a person or group of people with racketeering, defined as committing multiple violations of certain varieties within a ten-year period. The purpose of the RICO Act was stated as "the elimination of the infiltration of organized crime and racketeering into legitimate organizations operating in interstate commerce". S.Rep. No. 617, 91st Cong., 1st Sess. 76 (1968). However, the statute is sufficiently broad to encompass illegal activities relating to any enterprise affecting interstate or foreign commerce.

Section 1961(10) of Title 18 provides that the Attorney General of the United States may designate any department or agency to conduct investigations authorized by the RICO statute and such department or agency may use the investigative provisions of the statute or the investigative power of such department or agency otherwise conferred by law. Absent a specific designation by the Attorney General, jurisdiction to conduct investigations for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1962 lies with the agency having jurisdiction over the violations constituting the pattern of racketeering activity listed in 18 U.S.C. § 1961.[2]

In the U.S., civil racketeering laws are also used in federal and state courts. The National Federation of Independent Business challenged these civil laws in 2006 for being excessively abusive.[3]

See also

Alleged criminal organizations
Law enforcement and other administrative organizations in the United States


  1. ^ David Witwer, "'The Most Racketeer-Ridden Union in America': The Problem of Corruption in the Teamsters Union During the 1930s," in Corrupt Histories, Emmanuel Kreike and William Chester Jordan, eds., University of Rochester Press, 2004. ISBN 1580461735
  2. ^ Organized Crime and Racketeering
  3. ^ "NFIB Fights Abuse of Civil RICO Laws against Small Business" at NFIB.com

External links

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