Often we receive calls from individuals who have been interviewed by the FBI, DHS, IRS, or another three-letter agency. The person calling us is concerned that he or she may be the target or subject of a federal investigation and feels that he or she may need representation before things get out of hand.
Federal Investigators Cast a Wide Net
The reality is that the target of an investigation is generally not the first person that investigators contact. Often by the time federal investigators approach a target, the investigators have already reviewed evidence and spoken with witnesses about the alleged crime. By the time the investigators reach the target, they already know the answers to many of the questions they intend to ask.
What Should You Say to the Feds?
The individual who is a target to the investigation is put in a difficult position. The target does not know what information the government has and the government agents are under no obligation to be honest with the target. However, if the target lies to a federal agent, the target could be charged with another crime. Even worse, if the target lies to an investigator, that information will be used against the target later at trial to attack the target’s credibility.
Federal Subpoenas and Grand Juries
In some instances, an individual who is a target of an investigation may be subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury. While the target has the right to retain an attorney and to have an attorney represent him at that point, the target does not get to confer with his attorney while being questioned in front of the grand jury.
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Should You Plead the Fifth?
Often the target must decide whether to testify at the grand jury proceeding or invoke his or her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not testify.
“Show and Tell” Meetings with Federal Law Enforcement
In some instances, the government is interested in a speedy resolution and prior to grand jury proceedings and will contact the target’s attorney for what is commonly called a “show and tell.” In this meeting, there is generally one or more assistant United States Attorneys and law enforcement officers who provide information and sometimes documentation about the alleged crimes in hopes of working out an agreement with minimal litigation. This “show and tell” often occurs in federal white collar cases.
Surveillance Evidence in Federal Criminal Investigations
In white collar cases such as wire fraud, mortgage fraud, mail fraud, conspiracy, money laundering, the government already has video and audio surveillance, phone records, conversation recorded via wiretap and bank records. In other words, the government may have most of what they need to prosecute the case prior to talking to the target. They are simply hoping to get the target to confess or lie in a matter that is going to give the government a slam dunk case.
Finally, in some instances in cases like healthcare fraud or Medicare fraud, the government may act on a tip and the investigation and arrest may take place almost simultaneously. In these cases, the investigation continues after the arrest. This means that witnesses not previously identified prior to the arrest may be identified and questioned at a later time.
The Investigation Doesn’t End with the Arrest
However, in every case it make sense to treat the investigation as ongoing even after a target of an investigation has been arrested. In some cases, the government believes that the arrested person may be planning to flee a jurisdiction or to continue committing crimes. In other instances, the target is talking to other individuals and creating more witnesses by discussing the case or the government has discovered the target’s possible defenses and wants to ensure that they cover every base.
Hire a Federal Criminal Attorney as Soon as Possible
In short, retaining an attorney to represent you in a federal investigation can make a difference in the outcome of the case. Generally speaking, the early an attorney gets involved, the better. The target does not know the extent of the government’s investigation prior to coming in contact with law enforcement officers.
Unfortunately the defense attorney does not have immediate access to all the government’s investigative information at the beginning of the case. The government’s investigation is confidential and the defendant is generally not entitled to receive discovery material until after the court orders the government to turn it over to the defendant.
For these reasons, investigations are secret and often scary for the target because he does not know the extent of the investigation or when the investigation will end.
If you believe you are a target of an investigation, contact Berry Law.