Civil RICO: What Is A Predicate Act?

Nov 6, 2021

Introduction to Civil RICO and Predicate Acts

In the realm of law and government, specifically in the legal domain, the concept of Civil RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) holds significant importance. Civil RICO is a powerful tool designed to combat organized crime and fraudulent activities. At the heart of Civil RICO cases lie the notion of "predicate acts."

Understanding Predicate Acts

Before delving deeper into Civil RICO cases, it's crucial to comprehend what exactly a predicate act entails. In simple terms, a predicate act refers to a specific crime or an unlawful act that serves as the foundation for a RICO offense. These acts are typically committed by an individual or a group involved in an ongoing criminal enterprise. Predicate acts are the building blocks of a RICO case, enabling prosecutors to establish the existence of a criminal organization.

The Significance of Predicate Acts in Civil RICO Cases

Predicate acts play a vital role in Civil RICO cases. To bring a successful RICO claim, plaintiffs need to prove the presence of both a "pattern of racketeering activity" and an "enterprise." The pattern of racketeering activity involves the commission of at least two predicate acts within a ten-year period, while an enterprise refers to a legal or illegal organization involved in the criminal activity. Here, predicate acts illustrate the continued existence and regular operation of the enterprise.

Types of Predicate Acts

Various types of crimes can serve as predicate acts, depending on the jurisdiction and specific circumstances. Common examples include:

  • Fraudulent activities, such as wire fraud, mail fraud, or securities fraud
  • Illegal drugs-related offenses, like drug trafficking or distribution
  • Money laundering
  • Extortion or bribery
  • Counterfeiting
  • Embezzlement

It's important to highlight that the aforementioned list is not exhaustive, and predicate acts can vary based on the jurisdiction and applicable laws.

The Use of Predicate Acts in RICO Cases

Predicate acts serve as crucial evidence in RICO cases. They demonstrate the ongoing nature and continuity of criminal activities conducted by an enterprise. By establishing a pattern of racketeering activity through the presence of multiple predicate acts, prosecutors can demonstrate the intent, scope, and systematic nature of the criminal organization.

Proving Predicate Acts in Civil RICO Cases

Proving the existence of predicate acts in Civil RICO cases requires thorough investigation, evidence gathering, and legal expertise. Attorneys specializing in RICO cases employ various techniques to gather evidence, including:

  • Collecting financial records
  • Conducting interviews with witnesses
  • Analyzing communications, such as emails or phone records
  • Working closely with law enforcement agencies
  • Utilizing forensic accounting methods

Successfully proving the presence of predicate acts strengthens a Civil RICO case, allowing plaintiffs to seek remedies and damages for the harm caused by the criminal enterprise.


Understanding the concept of predicate acts is of paramount importance within the realm of Civil RICO cases. These acts serve as the backbone of RICO offenses, showcasing the habitual and ongoing criminal activities conducted by enterprises. By proving the existence of predicate acts, plaintiffs can demonstrate the organized, systematic nature of the criminal enterprise and seek justice through the legal system.