Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance may pursue a racketeering charge in a probe of former President Donald Trump’s company. This charge would allege that the Trump organization was a corrupt enterprise under New York’s “little RICO,” which is similar to the the federal racketeering statute, says former prosecutors and defense attorneys.
New York’s enterprise corruption statute can be used to prosecute businesses that allegedly engage in criminal activity. “Little RICO” can be invoked with proof of as few as three crimes.
The statue carries severe penalties, namely a prison term of up to 25 years.
According to defense attorney Michael Shapiro, “It’s a very serious crime. Certainly, there are plenty of things an organization or business could do to run afoul of enterprise corruption, if they’re all done with the purpose of enhancing the revenue of the enterprise illegally. … It’s an umbrella everything else fits under.”
However, the New York state racketeering law does impose time limits. That is, prosecutors would have to prove that two of any crimes charged occurred within the past five years, meaning that any crimes that occurred during the Trump campaign in 2016 might not be able to trigger the “little RICO” law in a few months.
Even though Trump and his organization have been involved in legal battles before, no charges have actually been filed against the Trump Organization, Donald Trump or any current Trump Organization officials (though Vance has been looking into the personal income tax returns of Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg).
Trump himself released a statement on Tuesday, in which he denounced Vance’s probe. “This is purely political, and an affront to the almost 75 million voters who supported me in the Presidential Election, and it’s being driven by highly partisan Democrat prosecutors. New York City and State are suffering the highest crime rates in their history, and instead of going after murderers, drug dealers, human traffickers, and others, they come after Donald Trump,” he said.
This statement comes amid reports that Vance commissioned a special grand jury to hear testimony about criminal activity related to the Trump organizations, a move that many prosecutors and defense attorneys believe to be fairly logical.
More specifically, Vance’s team has reportedly been investigating whether Trump aides knowingly inflated real estate valuations. Some of the Trump properties that are being scrutinized for the probe include Trump’s Seven Springs Estate in Westchester County, the Trump Tower in Chicago and the Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles.
Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, has been cooperating with Vance’s investigation. New York Attorney General Letitia James also recently agreed to coordinate with Vance’s office.