What do the Hells Angels, the Latin Kings, and the Gambino crime family have in common? They’ve all been charged by federal prosecutors under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—“RICO” for short.
Passed by Congress in 1970, RICO suits allege fraud and were originally intended to target organized crime. But RICO is not just a statute that helps prosecutors bring federal criminal cases against gangsters and thugs. It also provides a recourse for consumers who have been harmed by companies doing their very best to defraud them.
RICO cases center around an allegation of racketeering, defined as a violation of one or more of a laundry list of state or federal laws. These crimes include murder, kidnapping, and arson, but also extend to non-violent activities such as mail fraud and wire fraud. If a consumer can prove that an organization engaged in two prohibited activities in the space of 10 years, and that those actions posed a threat of further criminal behavior, he or she may well have a valid RICO claim.
In January 2016, Mostyn Law and Bell Law firm, filed a RICO lawsuit against the medical device company Boston Scientific. The law firms, based in Texas and West Virginia, respectively, alleged that the medical device manufacturing company engaged in fraud, intentional misrepresentation and other unlawful activities when it came to their dealings with a transvaginal mesh product.
The lead plaintiff in that suit, Teresa Stevens, along with thousands of other women, experienced serious pain and other physical problems associated with the implantation of the vaginal mesh. Stevens’ symptoms included frequent urinary tract infections, shooting pains in her abdomen, and painful sex.
Mostyn and Bell Law allege that Boston Scientific used potentially counterfeit, non-FDA approved mesh from China after their original supplier, Chevron Phillips, stopped selling to Boston Scientifc. According to the suit, approximately 55,000 women each year receive a Boston Scientific mesh implant, generating $120 million in revenue for the company. When the company turned to using counterfeit mesh, it recklessly placed the health, comfort and well being of thousands of women at risk.
RICO Lawsuits, such as the Mostyn Law suit, provide a powerful incentive to keep companies from enriching themselves through fraudulent means at consumers’ expense. RICO suits allow plaintiffs to recoup treble damages and attorney’s fees from the guilty party. It’s a serious statute for seriously corrupt behavior.