Sean Shecter, Steven Lee Speak with Law360 About DOJ's Recent Use of RICO Act in White Collar Cases

Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. (February 21, 2023) - Fort Lauderdale Partner Sean P. Shecter and Atlanta/Savannah Partner Steven H. Lee – co-chair and vice chair, respectively, of Lewis Brisbois' Government Investigations & White Collar Defense Practice – recently spoke with Law360 for an article about the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) recent increased use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, in federal white collar prosecutions.

Titled "Mob Mentality: DOJ Wields RICO With Mixed Results," the article begins with an anecdote from Mr. Shecter describing his work prosecuting a meth ring in Florida. The FBI had wanted to bring RICO charges, but as Mr. Shecter explained to Law360, the RICO Act frequently "muddies the waters and makes what can already be a complicated topic even more complex." The article goes on to compare the DOJ's attempts to bring RICO charges in a 2019 case against several J.P. Morgan traders (which ultimately failed at trial) and a more recent case involving the founder and other executives of the now-defunct investment management company Archegos. 

While article outlines how the facts in the Archegos matter more readily lend themselves to RICO charges, Mr. Lee noted that, regardless of how the case concludes, its outcome will impact how prosecutors approach similar cases going forward. If the government fails, prosecutors will be more likely to "stick with the traditional charges of wire fraud and mail fraud," Mr. Lee told Law360. However, he added, "If they are successful, you may have more RICO indictments with these types of security matters, because it allows the government to tell the story that there was a criminal enterprise." Mr. Shecter added that the concept of a "criminal enterprise" can pique a jury's interest, saying, "People hear that and think, 'Wow, this is like "The Sopranos" or a mob movie.' They'll pay more attention."

The article also discusses the possibility that the government will bring RICO charges against FTX founder and ex-CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, a case on which both Messrs. Shecter and Lee have previously provided comment. They told Law360 they are not expecting RICO to be used in the FTX prosecution, with Mr. Shecter adding, "Why spoil a good thing? There's enough ammunition with the evidence they have and everything he [Bankman-Fried] has stated publicly and the former FTX executives who are cooperating with the government. RICO makes it more complicated than it needs to be."

Messrs. Shecter and Lee are both former federal prosecutors with many years of experience conducting investigations and first-chairing trials. They focus on government and internal corporate investigations and complex litigation matters. 

Read the full Law360 article here (subscription may be required).

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