Labor racketeering sounds like something that a historical thing that doesn’t happen anymore or something involving the mob, but labor racketeering actually still happens. New Jersey has laws against labor racketeering, but it is difficult to know if you are on the wrong side of the law if you have no idea what labor racketeering is. Our Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers explain what racketeering is, some examples of what qualifies as labor racketeering, and the potential penalties you can face in New Jersey. If you need an Atlantic City labor racketeering lawyer, call our law offices today.
Definition of Labor Racketeering in NJ
To understand what labor racketeering is, it is best to start at what racketeering is in general. Racketeering consists of using illegal activity either to gain control of a business or to operate a business. Essentially, racketeering is the operation of a criminal enterprise.
People associate racketeering with things like prostitution, drugs, and illegal gambling – and that’s not an inaccurate association. Many of these activities are traditionally associated with mobs and organized crime, which would run criminal businesses and organizations that operated these kinds of activities. If they use these kinds of crimes as part of their business, they would be committing racketeering crimes that could be punished under state and federal RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) statutes.
Racketeering is also involved in businesses that turn to crime to help support or maintain their business. Using crime to overthrow leadership in the business or to improve profits can be considered racketeering.
Labor racketeering, specifically, refers to RICO violations and criminal activity that involve unions and labor relations. Any crime that takes place as part of an organization and involves union activities, employee benefits, or other labor-related issues could fall under the umbrella of “labor racketeering.”
Examples of Labor Racketeering
Labor racketeering usually involves criminal activity that is used to operate or make changes to any of the following:
- Labor unions
- Labor-management relationships
- Employee benefit plans
- Workers’ compensation or savings accounts
- Strikes and strike-busting
Sometimes, labor racketeering involves trying to make a profit off of these things. Committing fraud or embezzlement against benefit plans, union dues, or other funds can become labor racketeering if it is done as part of an organized criminal enterprise.
Employers and other organizations that use people to infiltrate and exploit unions and other labor organizations may also be committing labor racketeering and RICO violations. Using plants within a union to help stop organization or collective bargaining opportunities, stop strikes, or help force strikes can all become racketeering. Especially if these efforts involve fraud, coercion, or threats of violence, they can become serious crimes.
Crimes organized through a union can also be labor racketeering. If union leaders or labor organizers use union members to commit crimes, that also likely qualifies as labor racketeering. Employees could be pressured or extorted into committing crimes on behalf of other union members, potentially turning the union into a criminal organization in itself.
Many of these crimes are part of larger organized crime efforts. While labor racketeering may only cover one or two of the illegal acts the offender and their accomplices use, there may be additional crimes such as drug trafficking, extortion, or embezzlement going on with the help of a larger business organization or organized criminal group.
Penalties for Labor Racketeering in New Jersey
New Jersey’s RICO statute is found starting at N.J.S.A. § 2C:41-2. This statute defines the specific criminal acts involved in racketeering. N.J.S.A. § 2C:41-3 lists the specific penalties.
Different racketeering activities are charged as different crime levels depending on the conduct. In New Jersey, felony offenses are known as “indictable crimes,” with these crimes organized into different levels. First degree crimes and second degree crimes are the most serious, and RICO and racketeering offenses are usually charged as one of these two offenses.
Since racketeering involves other underlying criminal conduct, the level of crime you are charged with for racketeering is based on the severity of those underlying crimes:
- Crimes of violence lead to first degree racketeering charges.
- First degree underlying crimes lead to first degree racketeering charges.
- Crimes involving firearms lead to first degree racketeering charges.
- Any other underlying crimes lead to second degree racketeering charges.
In New Jersey, a first degree crime is the highest level of crime. This crime is on par with murder in severity and includes the potential of 10-20 years in prison and fines up to $200,000. A second degree crime is slightly less severe and includes penalties of 5-10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000.
RICO and racketeering charges can also be filed at the federal level. Federal criminal charges in New Jersey often have more sophisticated law enforcement and prosecutors, with groups like the FBI, the DEA, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant United States Attorneys handling these cases. The penalties for federal charges are also severe and often include many years in prison under the federal sentencing guidelines.
In any criminal case, evidence of a low level of involvement and leadership and other mitigating factors can help reduce penalties at sentencing.
Call Our New Jersey Labor Racketeering Defense Lawyers for a Free Legal Consultation
If you or a loved one was arrested for racketeering or labor racketeering in New Jersey, contact the Atlantic City criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Our attorneys represent the accused in state and federal criminal cases to help fight the charges and take your case to trial. For help with your case, call our law offices today at 609-616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.