Three Simple Rules: When the Feds Investigate You.
1. DO NOT TALK.If a federal investigator approaches you, the chances are excellent that he or she has already concluded that you have committed a crime. By speaking to you, the agent hopes to do one of two things: A. obtain confirmation or a confession; or B. to get you to make a statement that the agent can already prove to be objectively false. A false statement to a federal law enforcement officer is a crime that carries a prison term. In either circumstance, the agent is developing information designed to assist in charging you with a crime.
Agents are trained in the art of getting you to speak to them. They will approach you when your guard is down, perhaps early in the morning, or late at night. They may come during business hours, while you are with clients or colleagues. They will often create the impression that you must speak to them, or face serious consequences.
But NOTHING YOU SAY WILL HELP YOU. So say nothing, other than to politely decline
2. CONSULT AND HIRE AN EXPERIENCED FEDERAL CRIMINAL ATTORNEY.Many people are tempted to contact their divorce attorney, or a personal injury lawyer or a relative with a law degree. All of these lawyers may be very skilled in their own fields, but they are not equipped to deal with this sort of specialized investigation. Federal laws are complex. The process of investigation is lengthy, and may involve an extensive examination of records and witness interviews. The federal sentencing guidelines are often as complicated as the Internal Revenue Code. It is not something that can be easily mastered.
An attorney with a background in dealing with these sorts of investigations is essential to obtaining the best result. The attorney can confer with federal agents and prosecutors to develop information about the scope of the investigation. If you truly are a target, the attorney can develop information about potential defenses.
3. BE HONEST WITH THE ATTORNEY THAT YOU HIRE.Many clients make the mistake of telling their lawyer only half the story. They may be afraid that if they are truthful, the lawyer won't take the case. They may be concerned that if the lawyer knows the truth, he or she won't try as hard. I once had a client tell me "I have no idea why the FBI wants to speak to me" when the FBI had just told the client exactly what they were investigating.
Clients who withhold information from their attorneys are hurting themselves. They waste their own money while the attorney pursues false leads and defenses that ultimately prove to be fruitless. But a lawyer armed with the facts can have a great advantage when a case is still under investigation. He or she can attempt to negotiate an immunity agreement. A defense lawyer can advise the client on whether it makes sense to seek a plea agreement or to prepare a defense.