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What Are the Elements of a Civil RICO Claim in New Jersey?

 To prove a cause of action under section 2C:41-2(c) of the New Jersey Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“New Jersey RICO”), N.J.S.A. § 2C:41-2(c), the plaintiff must demonstrate (1) the existence of an enterprise, (2) that the enterprise engaged in or its activities affected trade or commerce, (3) that defendant was employed by, or associated with the enterprise, (4) that he participated in the conduct of the affairs of the enterprise, and (5) that he participated through a pattern of racketeering activity. State v. Ball, 141 N.J. 142, 181-187, 661 A.2d 251, 270-274 (N.J. 1995) [an enhanced version of this opinion is available to subscribers]. New Jersey RICO defines “racketeering activity” as including, among other things, bribery, extortion, forgery and fraudulent practices, securities fraud, and all crimes set forth in chapter 21 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes. See N.J.S.A. § 2C:41-1(a).

In order to demonstrate a pattern of racketeering activity under New Jersey RICO, the plaintiff must show (1) that the defendant committed at least two predicate acts and (2) that the incidents of racketeering activity embrace criminal conduct that has either the same or similar purposes, results, participants or victims or methods of commission or are otherwise interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated incidents. See Ball, 141 N.J. at 184-185, 661 A.2d at 272-273.

A person who proves a claim under section 2C:41-2 of New Jersey RICO is entitled to recover threefold the damages sustained by him, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. N.J.S.A. § 2C:41-4(c).

“The language of the New Jersey counterpart of [the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”)], 18 U.S.C. § 1962, N.J.S.A. 2C:41-2, is identical in all material respects except that the New Jersey Act is directed toward enterprises engaged in or the activities of which affect ‘trade or commerce,’ not interstate or foreign commerce.” Kievit v. Rokeach, No. 86-2592, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16131, at *20-*21 (D.N.J. Oct. 29, 1987) [enhanced version];accord New Jersey Office Supply, Inc. v. Feldman, No. 89-3990, 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 6620, at *9 (D.N.J. June 4, 1990)  [enhanced version].

“The virtual identity of the Federal and New Jersey RICO acts permits the Court to interpret them in a consistent manner.” Kievit, No. 86-2592, 1987 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16131, at *20-*21; accord Gilmore v. Berg, 761 F. Supp. 358, 375 (D.N.J. 1991) [enhanced version].

That is, at least where “[t]here is no state decisional law on . . . [an] aspect of civil [New Jersey] RICO law,” “parallel federal case law is an appropriate reference source to interpret the [New Jersey] RICO statute.” Interchange State Bank v. Veglia, 286 N.J. Super. 164, 177, 668 A.2d 465, 472 (App. Div. 1995)  [enhanced version], cert. denied, 144 N.J. 377, 676 A.2d 1092 (N.J. 1996); accord Cetel v. Kirwan Fin. Group, Inc., 460 F.3d 494, 510 (3d Cir.2006)  [enhanced version].

If your company wants to bring, or needs a lawyer to defend it in, business litigation and you are located in the New York City area, call Attorney David S. Rich at (212) 209-3972.

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