Feature Articles

November 2017
Racketeering Enterprises

      By Mike La Sorte, Professor Emeritus

Mike La Sorte is a professor emeritus (SUNY) and writes extensively on a variety of subjects.

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“A considerable measure of crime in the community is made possible by the peculiar connection that exists between the political organizations of our larger cities and the criminal activities of various gangs that are permitted to operate.” (Frank Tannenbaum, U.S. Social Scientist)

“Fransanchez Corr accepted a plea deal on a charge of interstate and foreign travel in aid of Racketeering Enterprises.” (8-13-2017)

Racketeering is the operation of illegal businesses, or when an organized crime ring uses legitimate organizations to embezzle funds. Examples include trafficking in women, weapons, drugs, crimes of all types. In 1978 Congress enacted RICO—the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization. RICO, after some initial confusion regarding interpretation of its utility, has become effective in busting criminal syndicates. Such enterprises have served as launching platforms for criminal intrusions into legitimate businesses, helped by the connivance of otherwise legitimate members of the business world.

It is misleading to conclude that rackets are composed only of traditional crime-ridden groups. Those who engage in racketeering enterprises can be a mix of legitimate and illegitimate community members—full time and part-time crooks—who seek to corrupt political and legal organizations. Such activities stand outside the Underworld, and thereby can constitute a significant threat to the commonweal, the public welfare.

We have seen racketeering and corruption in the New York City’s construction industry that dates back at least a century, and probably in other metro areas where Mob activity is most likely. The list of crimes are many, including extortion, protection rackets, drug trafficking, loan sharking, contract killing, those which fall mostly under the purview of organized crime.

Good examples are the banking and loan scandals, so-called “Collective embezzlement.” They involve insider criminality where internal management (not outside thieves) endorses the fraudulent use of funds for personal gain. Some loans are conspiracies in which the borrower has no intention of repayment. Bankers would approve and receive a percentage. Such is recognized as insider white-collar crime, a scam that can continue until the business goes under.

A more memorable criminal operation that lasted for some time, and has not been completely resolved, is the well-known Pizza Connection case. It was seen in the United States, Turkey, Sicily, France and Brazil. In the American version, Pizza Parlors were distribution points in a drug smuggling scheme, the Parlors acting as cover for the operation. The Pizza Connection case well illustrates the ingenuity of drug traffickers in using an everyday legit business as cover for a racketeering enterprise; hiding in full view.

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