What is Enterprise Corruption: Understanding New York Penal Law 460.20 and the “Criminal Enterprise” Element

Even though RICO crimes are not prosecuted by the New York State Attorney General or by one of the many District Attorneys such as those in the boroughs of New York City, organized crimes does not get a pass in the State of New York. While large-scale schemes, whether they involve crews or organizations, routinely involve allegations of Money Laundering, Criminal Tax Fraud, Grand Larceny and other offenses, the underlying acts and how they violate the law are not always the central component of these prosecutions. Instead, even if the crime or crimes committed don’t amount to a more serious felony, law enforcement in New York has a weapon in its enforcement arsenal that exposes an accused to significant incarceration post-indictment. This New York version of RICO is Enterprise Corruption, New York Penal Law 460.20.

One of the first questions an accused will ask his or her criminal lawyer when charged with any crime is whether or not he or she will go to prison or jail. While most crimes give a judge some flexibility, the same cannot be said for those convicted of Enterprise Corruption. What that means is a sentencing judge may have some latitude, but if you are convicted of PL 460.20 then incarceration is mandatory. Where discretion comes into play is if the judge sentences you to the one to three year minimum or up to the eight and one third to twenty-five year maximum prison sentence. With this in mind, it is of the greatest import that when given the opportunity to challenge an indictment for Enterprise Corruption you understand the basic elements of the crime to best challenge your arrest.

A, if not “the,” key element of Enterprise Corruption that prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt is the existence of  a”Criminal Enterprise.” As defined by PL 460.10(3), a “Criminal Enterprise” is a group, crew or even a bunch of people who have a shared objective of engaging in criminal conduct. Additionally, this group cannot be a lose fit pseudo-organization but must be one with an “ascertainable structure” that engages in a pattern of criminal wrongdoing. Further, the purpose, structure and continuity of the organization must not solely relate to the specific crimes alleged in a particular indictment, but have a continued purpose beyond those acts. In other words, the purpose of the criminal enterprise must exist beyond the criminal act in question. Confused? That’s OK and even expected. In fact, even if you fully grasp the brief explanation of a “Criminal Enterprise” for the purpose of Enterprise Corruption, you must also wrap your hands around the second term in that phrase, “Enterprise.” A bit more straight forward, an “Enterprise,” whether or not it is criminal, is comprised of at least one person that is either public or private and engaged in professional, social, business (yes, even illicit), or other activities.

At bottom, there are many moving parts that criminal lawyers must consider when examining a felony arrest or indictment involving Enterprise Corruption. With so much exposure, an accused would be foolish not to challenge such an allegation even if he or she is unable to defeat each and every underlying offense. Simply, success can mean the difference between mandatory imprisonment upon a conviction or plea and the possibility of never stepping foot in jail.

To learn more about New York’s RICO statute, aka, Enterprise Corruption, review the provided links.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. Serving New York City and the Hudson Valley, as well as other municipalities and counties in the State of New York, Saland Law PC has successfully represented clients in indictments charging NY Penal Law 460.20 both by way of motion to dismiss and other defenses.


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