The legal weapon used to bring down mobsters and drug dealers could be wielded against Donald Trump.
According to interviews in Politico, former prosecutors and defense attorneys think Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is contemplating bringing “little RICO” charges against the Trump business empire. The state law (officially dubbed New York’s enterprise corruption statute) resembles a federal crime fighting tool and can be charged if there are at least three crimes connected to a business enterprise. “Little RICO” convictions require a mandatory minimum prison term of one to three years, although sentencing sometimes stretches to 25 years.
“I’m sure they’re thinking about that,” veteran Manhattan defense attorney Robert Anello told Politico. “No self-respecting state white-collar prosecutor would forgo considering the enterprise corruption charge.”
“Little RICO” also offers prosecutors flexibility. “It’s an umbrella everything else fits under,” Michael Shapiro, a defense attorney who used to prosecute corruption cases in New York told Politico.
Prosecutors seem to be probing at least three areas of impropriety within the Trump business empire – including potential tax evasion, fraud involving real estate evaluations, and the payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels.
No wonder then, that members of Trump’s orbit have said they are living under “a cloud of nerves.” The anxiety has intensified as prosecutors have begun closing in on the longtime Chief Financial Officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. If Weisselberg flips, he can be a valuable tool for investigators.
Trump has maintained his innocence, saying the investigation is politically motivated.
Some lawyers think “little RICO” charges against Trump would be overkill. “Why overcharge and complicate something that could be fairly simple?” Jeremy Saland, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office, told Politico. “Why muddy up the water?