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43 Vand. L. Rev. 851 (1990)


In 1970 Congress enacted the Organized Crime Control Act, Title IX of which is known as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. At first, the Department of Justice moved slowly to use RICO in criminal prosecutions. Today, RICO is the prosecutor's tool of choice in organized crime, political corruption, white-collar crime, terrorism, and neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic hate group prosecutions. The Department of Justice also is implementing the civil provisions of the Act. The private bar did not begin to bring civil RICO suits until about 1975. When it did, a firestorm of controversy broke out, and today RICO is endangered from a variety of quarters. The arguments against RICO are fueled by a series of myths that are not supported by a careful analysis of the statute, its legislative history, or the facts. The myths, however, have a debilitating impact on the interpretation and application of the statute. Chiefly, these myths undermine RICO's basic legitimacy. When the statute's legitimacy is undermined, efforts are facilitated to get the judiciary or Congress to rewrite the statute. If these efforts succeed, victims of sophisticated forms of crime everywhere will be harmed. Accordingly, these myths need to be thoroughly examined before any RICO reform goes forward.

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