UNITED STATES V. TURKETTE, 452 U. S. 576 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981)

United States v. Turkette

No. 80-808

Argued April 27, 1981

Decided June 17, 1981

452 U.S. 576


Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, entitled Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO), was added to Title 18 by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. Title 18 U.S.C. § 1962(c), which is part of RICO, makes it unlawful

"for any person employed by or associated with any enterprise engaged in, or the activities of which affect, interstate or foreign commerce, to conduct or participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of such enterprise's affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity or collection of unlawful debt."

The term "enterprise" is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1961(4) as including

"any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or other legal entity, and any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity."

An indictment charged respondent and others with, inter alia, a conspiracy to violate § 1962(c). The indictment described the enterprise in question as a group of individuals associated in fact for the purpose of engaging in certain specified criminal activities. Respondent was convicted in Federal District Court, but the Court of Appeals reversed on the ground that RICO was intended solely to protect legitimate business enterprises from infiltration by racketeers, and does not make it criminal to participate in an association which performs only illegal acts and has not infiltrated or attempted to infiltrate a legitimate enterprise.

Held: The term "enterprise," as used in RICO, encompasses both legitimate and illegitimate enterprises. Pp. 452 U. S. 580-593.

(a) Neither the language nor structure of RICO limits its application to legitimate enterprises. On its face, the definition of "enterprise" in § 1961(4) appears to include both legitimate and illegitimate enterprises within its scope. The section describes two separate categories of associations that come within the purview of an "enterprise" -- the first encompassing organizations such as corporations, partnerships, and other "legal entities," and the second covering "any union or group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity." The second category is not a more generalized description of the first, and hence the rule of ejusdem generis cannot be properly applied to hold

Page 452 U. S. 577

that the second category should be limited by the specific examples enumerated in the first. Pp. 452 U. S. 580-582.

(b) With respect to § 1962(c), an "enterprise" is not a "pattern of racketeering activity," but is an entity separate and apart from the pattern of activity in which it engages. In order to secure a conviction, the Government must prove both the existence of an "enterprise" and the connected "pattern of racketeering activity." Pp. 452 U. S. 582-583.

(c) Applying RICO to illegitimate as well as legitimate enterprises does not render any portion of the statute superfluous, nor does it create any structural incongruities within the statute's framework. On the contrary, insulating the wholly criminal enterprise from prosecution under RICO is the more incongruous position. Pp. 452 U. S. 583-587.

(d) Nothing in RICO's legislative history requires a conclusion that the statute is limited in its application to legitimate enterprises. In view of the purposes of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 to eradicate organized crime in the United States, it cannot be said that Congress nevertheless confined the reach of the law to only narrow aspects of organized crime, and, in particular, under RICO, to only the infiltration of legitimate business. Pp. 452 U. S. 588-593.

632 F.2d 896, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, REHNQUIST, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 452 U. S. 593.

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