Your Rights during a Federal Fraud Investigation
A criminal fraud scheme that attracts the attention of federal authorities is often extensive, long-lasting, and may leave a significant amount of evidence in its wake. To gather enough evidence to have probable cause to make arrests, federal agents often engage in a thorough and lengthy investigation of potential suspects. Such an investigation may be conducted undercover, or agents may approach you directly with questions. If you’re under investigation, contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to protect your rights.
“Fraud” is used to describe a number of offenses under federal law that involve using deceit for wrongful financial gain. Common federal fraud charges include:
- Health care fraud1
- Bank fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Fraud against the government
- Credit–card fraud
- Tax fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Securities fraud2
- Wire fraud
In addition to the fraud charge, many people implicated in such schemes are also accused of money laundering or related white–collar crimes. The penalties for convictions for such offenses can be severe and can involve extended prison sentences.
Who is Investigated?
Federal authorities do not only investigate the main players in a fraud scheme. They may also look into the actions and history of those who may be ancillary to the enterprise. There are three categories for those involved in a federal investigation. They are:
Witness: The authorities do not suspect that this individual is involved in the criminal activity – at least, not yet. However, they may think a witness has information that they want to present to a grand jury.
Subject: A subject may seem suspicious, but authorities do not have enough evidence to prove that they were involved in a crime. Therefore, the authorities want to further investigate whether the subject was involved.
Target: This is an individual who is under investigation because the federal prosecutor believes they are guilty of a crime. There’s a good chance they will be charged if the investigation gathers enough evidence for an indictment.
The problem with the above categories is that they can change at any time. It only takes one piece of information for you to go – almost immediately – from a witness or subject to a target. For this reason, even if authorities assure you that you are merely being questioned as a witness, you should be cautious and have legal representation.
Don’t Talk to Investigators Alone
In many situations, federal agents will knock on your door for an interview. It is important to realize that this interview is, in fact, an interrogation to gather any possible evidence of criminal activity. Even if agents say they are on your side, their main goal is to get you to reveal information that either incriminates you or someone else.
Even if you’re 100 percent certain that you did nothing wrong, there’s still a chance you can make factual errors during questioning. This is especially true because federal agents can be intimidating, and it’s easy to become nervous and misspeak. Such mistakes can be held against you later – either to charge you with a crime or to allege that you lied to federal authorities. To avoid implicating yourself in any capacity, it is critical to always inform agents that you would like to have an attorney present. While you may believe that having an attorney present could be viewed as an indication of guilt, it simply ensures that your rights are protected during questioning.
If you have reason to believe you’re under any type of criminal investigation by the feds or by the state, your very first call should be to seek representation from a highly experienced Connecticut criminal defense attorney. At Duffy Law, our attorneys have extensive experience defending against an array of criminal charges in both state and federal court. As a former Assistant United States Attorney, Felice Duffy has inside knowledge of the federal justice system and can provide the assistance you need during an investigation or criminal case.