Use the word Racketeering and your mind will automatically associate it with the Mafia. It’s a term you'll hear frequently in movies and television shows about gangsters and the mob. But racketeering is actually a crime that can be committed by anyone. The word racketeering appeared in the 1920s. At that time, it described illegal activities like prostitution, drug and weapons trafficking, counterfeiting and smuggling. Since then, the definition has grown. Today racketeering takes on many forms where extortion is a tool to gain money illegally.


1. Creating a Need

In 1927, the Employer’s Association of Chicago used the term racketeering to describe the influence of organized crime in a labor union called Teamsters. A basic definition of racketeering is the offering of a dishonest service to fill a need that would not usually exist. Criminals or organizations create a problem and then provide the solution. The term derives from the word racket which is any criminal activity that cheats individuals out of money.

William Waugh With Al Capone Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

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