Education, News & Events

What does RICO mean? Rappers Young Thug, Gunna arrested

It’s not just someone’s name.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
May 13, 2022

On May 9, (this past Monday), 28 members of YSL, including Young Thug and Gunna, were arrested and charged for conspiracy to violate RICO and gang activity in Atlanta. The charges of everyone involved amount to 56.


According to the indictment, YSL (Thug’s label) is a “criminal street gang,” formed in 2012 with ties to the Bloods. The conspiracy charge is from an incident on January 24, 2013, and the gang charge, an incident from May 12, 2018. Other members are charged with aggravated assault, drugs, weapons, and armed robbery.


Young Thug is also accused of renting a car that was used in the murder of Donovan Thomas in 2015, who was killed during a drive-by shooting. Four YSL members and Yak Gotti were charged for it. One of the charges, conspiracy to commit murder, states that Christian “Big Bhris” Eppinger and Antonio “Obama” Sumlin sought to get Young Thug’s permission to murder YFN Lucci.


What is RICO? What does RICO do?

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is a federal law that basically says “Racketeers (individuals or organizations) can’t racketeer (commit organized crime to benefit an enterprise).” If someone violates RICO, they are suspected of being connected to an organization that’s racketeering on a patterned basis.


RICO was set in motion in the ’70s to take down the mob — it treats the families like businesses. Workers regularly fulfill job expectations to benefit the business and take home a paycheck. If you’ve seen Goodfellas, The Godfather, or The Sopranos, you know the mob works similarly, though often illegally.


The law’s bounds have since expanded, encompassing breaking the law through coercion or extortion (RICO gets cult leaders too). The feds can prosecute organized crime participants, as well as real, legit businesses suspected of organized crime (fraud, etc.).


RICO’s nuances and penalties

About RICO: If the crime(s) “benefit the business,” everyone can catch a charge. So, if people in the organization gambled, committed arson, wire fraud, and laundered money, and some dude who didn’t do any of that was in the family, everyone’s getting charged. They all benefited the business with a pattern of criminal behavior. This makes crimes done on behalf of the business more serious.


RICO’s big thing is the pattern. There must be at least two acts of racketeering being done within 10 years to be charged.


Someone can catch up to 20 years for each count of RICO violation, or life in prison. Additionally, they can be fined for twice the money made racketeering. If someone is looking at serious prison time for RICO, the government can seize property bought with the crime money. There can also be in a civil suit against people negatively affected.


To, for lack of a better term, “get off” on RICO charges, your case must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the organization wasn’t a thing, no interstate commerce was affected, you didn’t have a job there, where you did a pattern of crime, and that you never, ever participated in benefitting the businesses.


All this in mind, getting charged with RICO violation is undoubtedly huge. What do you think will come of their charges? Young Thug and Gunna aren’t the only celebs getting arrested lately. Recently, Ezra Miller has been routinely arrested in Hawaii.


Photo via Johnny Nunez/2021 BET Hip Hop Awards/Getty Images for BET