SAN FRANCISCO — The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is usually in the purview of federal prosecutors seeking to take down organized crime syndicates or drug cartels.

But in a federal RICO lawsuit filed Monday in the Northern District of California, lawyers at Block & Leviton claim a group of seven retailers, including Walmart Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch, participated in a scheme to extort accused shoplifters into paying to take an online course aimed at scaring them out of future theft. The suit claims the companies partnered with the Corrective Education Co. in Utah.

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