U.S. Court of Appeals takes Broad View in NY RICO Case, Reinstates Convictions of Two Defendants
Louis J. Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa are former New York City Police Detectives who in 2006, were both convicted on Federal Racketeering charges. The former detectives were convicted of working closely with some of New York’s organized crime families, partaking in conspiracy, kidnapping, bribery, obstruction of justice, leaking police information, and the killing or assisted killings of at least eight people. The Detective’s work with the New York Mafia took place mostly in Brooklyn, and occurred during the 1980’s and 1990’s. The duo was arrested in 2005 in Las Vegas on charges of money laundering and narcotics distribution. The prosecutor used these charges to bring the Detective’s prior criminal activity under the umbrella of an ongoing criminal enterprise, so that they could be prosecuted under the Federal RICO statute. Eppolito and Caracappa were convicted by a jury and sentenced to life imprisonment by the trial judge; however, despite overwhelming evidence of guilt, the trial judge set aside their sentence because he determined that the RICO statute’s 5-year statute of limitations had run. He ruled that the criminal activity which occurred in Las Vegas was unrelated to the Detective’s work with the New York mob, and therefore they could not be tried for their activity during that time.
Setting aside the conviction opened an exception to the double jeopardy rule, allowing the prosecution to appeal the trial court decision. In an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, the Court found that the Detective’s actions were intertwined in that all of the activity was for the same purpose; making money. Eppolito and Caracappa were compensated for their work with the New York Mafia. They continued to commit criminal acts in Las Vegas for the same purpose. Taking a broad approach, the Court disagreed with the trial court’s assertion that the Las Vegas acts were “singular, sporadic acts of criminality” and ruled that the acts were part of a criminal enterprise which in fact did not end before 2000. Due to this finding, the statute of limitations for the RICO statute was found not to have tolled, and the Court reinstated the convictions and life sentences for Eppolito and Caracappa.
The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a federal law that provides for extended penalties for criminal acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. Under RICO, a person or group who commits any two of 35 crimes within a 10-year period, and has committed those crimes with similar purpose or results, can be charged with racketeering. Those found guilty of racketeering can be fined up to $25,000 and/or sentenced to 20 years in prison for each count they have been charged. In addition, the offender must forfeit all profits and interest in any business gained through a pattern of “racketeering activity.”
RICO charges are extremely serious and carry severe penalties if convicted. Generally, charges stem from long federal investigations. If you are the subject of a RICO investigation or have been charged, it is absolutely imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney with experience in these areas. The Law Offices of Marc Neff has successfully defended people against such charges for over 20 years. If you feel you are under investigation, or have been indicted/charged, contact our offices immediately so that we may assist in your defense.