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Pennsylvania Racketeering Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Racketeering/RICO Laws

Federal and state racketeering laws make it a crime for a criminal organization or enterprise to receive income through such organization or enterprise's "pattern of racketeering activity" or collection of unlawful debts. Like the federal Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act, which prohibits an array of activities relating to any such enterprise engaged in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, Pennsylvania's Corrupt Organizations Act also criminalizes the infiltration and corruption of legitimate businesses by organized crime. The purpose of the statute is to "successfully resist and eliminate" such infiltration and corruption by providing "new remedies and procedures."

Additional details about Pennsylvania's racketeering laws can be found in the following table.

Statute Pennsylvania Statutes Title 18, § 911
Specific Offenses Prohibited Under this Law
  • To use or invest, directly or indirectly, any part of income "derived, directly or indirectly, from a pattern of racketeering activity in which such person participated as a principal," or the proceeds of such income, in the acquisition of any interest in, or the establishment or operation of, any enterprise.
  • To acquire or maintain, directly or indirectly, any interest in, or control of, any enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.
  • To conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, where the person is employed by or associated with the enterprise.
  • To conspire to violate any of the statute's provisions.
Crime Classification / Penalties
1st degree felony / up to 20 yrs. in prison, plus fines

For purposes of the statute, "racketeering activity" includes an act which is indictable under specified provisions of Pennsylvania statutory criminal law; an offense, indictable under the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act, relating to the sale and dispensing of narcotic drugs; the collection of any money or property in full or partial satisfaction of an unlawful debt; any indictable offense relating to gaming; and a conspiracy to commit any of the offenses listed in this paragraph.

Moreover, a person participates in a "pattern of racketeering activity" when he or she engages in a "course of conduct requiring two or more acts of racketeering activity," one of which must occur after the effective date of the statute. Significantly, a defendant need not be convicted of the predicate crimes constituting the pattern of racketeering to satisfy the necessary pattern; the statute requires only that the prosecution prove the elements of two or more predicate criminal acts beyond a reasonable doubt.

Finally, an "enterprise" means "any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact, although not a legal entity, engaged in commerce"; the term includes legitimate as well as illegitimate entities and governmental entities.

To secure a corrupt organizations conviction, the prosecution must therefore prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. The defendant participated in a pattern of racketeering activity within the state
  2. by one of the means proscribed in the statute (i.e., by using or investing the proceeds of such pattern in an enterprise; acquiring or maintaining any interest in or control or an enterprise through such pattern; conducting or participating in an enterprise's affairs through such pattern; or conspiring to do any of the above); and
  3. the gain derived from the racketeering activity was channeled into an enterprise in the state for the purpose of corrupting that enterprise and gaining a foothold for organized crime within the state.


  • Lack of "pattern of racketeering activity"
  • Duress or compulsion
  • Entrapment
  • Withdrawal

Penalties and Sentences

Persons convicted of the corrupt organizations offense are guilty of a felony of the first degree. Such violations are deemed to continue "so long as the person who committed the violation continues to receive any benefit from the violation." In Pennsylvania, felonies of the first degree are punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of up to 20 years. The court may also impose a fine which is the greater of up to $25,000 or any higher amount consisting of double the amount of the defendant's gain from commission of the crime.

Importantly, a person so convicted may also be subject to civil remedies provided in the statute, which expressly vests Pennsylvania Courts of Common Pleas and the Commonwealth Court with jurisdiction to issue appropriate orders. Such orders include those requiring the defendant to "divest himself of any interest direct or indirect, in the enterprise"; imposing reasonable restrictions on the future activities or investments of the defendant; and orders "making due provision for the rights of innocent persons," including by ordering the dissolution of the enterprise or prohibiting it from engaging in any business.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Facing Racketeering Charges? An Attorney Can Help

Racketeering is a very serious crime involving a fraudulent operation, typically with many moving parts and even some unwilling accomplices. In any event, those charged with the crime will probably need some expert legal advice. Get started today by meeting with an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.

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