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Can government seize your house, your car and your business?

The brief answer to the question above is "yes." Yes, the state of Florida, or even a county sheriff or local police department can walk into a home or business and seize cash, property and other assets that the state says is connected to proceeds from organized criminal activity.

The FBI has this power as well. You might have heard of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known by its acronym: RICO. This racketeering law can enable the FBI and state and local law enforcement agencies to seize private property and assets - in some cases, even if no crime has been proven in our legal system.

There are both criminal RICO cases and civil RICO cases. These matters can involve allegations of fraudulent billing, mail fraud, bank fraud, mortgage fraud, and false claims for insurance.

A person convicted of a RICO violation can be sentenced to 20 years in prison, and have their personal property seized and forfeited, including any company obtained by engaging in the organized criminal operation.

Let's say Person A is accused of being involved in a scheme to fraudulently bill Medicare. Person A could be sentenced to prison if found guilty of the criminal act, but could also lose Company B, a firm he allegedly created to defraud Medicare. He could also lose his interest in Company C, a wholly legitimate business unrelated to Medicare billing, but purchased with monies from the alleged Medicare scheme.

In addition, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies can seize unlimited amounts of cash in what is known as an administrative forfeiture. Here's what the FBI saysabout its immense administrative forfeiture powers: "If the administrative action is not contested in a timely manner, any legal claim to the property is thereafter barred and the agency may declare the property forfeited."

Just like that. If the accused doesn't respond quickly, the FBI's position is that theproperty is forfeited whether or not the FBI proves that a crime has taken place.

These laws are complicated and can involve federal, state, county and city investigators and allegations. the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A. has experience in both criminal and civil RICO cases and can help defend your rights, your freedom and your property.

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