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So, You Received a Target Letter from the Feds: Now What?

Chances are if you are reading this article, you or someone you love has been sent what is referred to by the federal government as a “target letter.” A target letter is something sent out by the United States Attorney’s Office that puts you on notice that you are the subject, or target, of a federal investigation. It is a letter from the federal prosecutor informing the recipient that they believe he or she has committed a crime or has information on a crime committed. Generally, the target letter will inform the recipient of many things, including, but not limited to:

  • The crime they believe the recipient to have committed
  • The right of the recipient to plead the Fifth Amendment
  • The status of the recipient in a federal investigation
  • Information concerning the recipient's right to obtain court-appoint counsel
What Is a Target?

The United States Justice Manual defines a “target” as a person who the prosecutor has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is presumed to be the defendant. It is important to understand that while the words are commonly used in unison when referencing federal target letters, a “subject” differs from a target in a federal investigation.

A “subject” is generally considered to be a witness. However, as a case progresses, a subject may quickly become the target of a federal investigation. This is yet another reason why a recipient of a federal target letter needs to contact an attorney. The letter may use the term “target” and “subject” almost interchangeably, causing recipients to be unsure, or perhaps completely unaware, that they are the person being investigated.

Crimes Commonly Associated With Federal Target Letters

Cases involving white-collar crime are those most commonly issued federal target letters. White-collar crime refers to non-violent crimes motivated by financial gain. The most recognizable white-collar crimes include wage theft, bribery, fraud, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement, and more. Crimes of this nature are typically committed by business people who have access to large amounts of money due to the inherent nature of their job.

According to the FBI, the majority of the cases of corporate fraud they pursue involve falsification of financial records, insider trading, and schemes designed to conceal fraudulent activity to impede regulatory bodies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, from conducting their inquiry duties.

What to Do if the Letter Asks You to Do Something

A target letter typically asks the recipient to do something. Some letters will request the recipient to testify before a grand jury, and some may advise the recipient to obtain an attorney and have them call the prosecutor to talk about the case. A letter may also invite the recipient to attend a meeting with the United States attorney assigned the case to discuss the issues and the possibility of reaching a deal. While uncommon, the letter may also contain a warning to the recipient to not destroy any potential evidence and the legal consequences of doing so.

Before taking any action in response to the letter on your own, you should obtain an attorney to represent you in the matter. Anything you say or do will almost certainly be used against you, so you must protect yourself and hire an attorney with experience in handling federal criminal law matters.

How Will an Attorney Respond to a Target Letter?

Commonly, the first thing a federal criminal defense attorney will do is contact the United States Attorney overseeing your case. Based upon the nature of the evidence the government has, an attorney will be able to create a case plan and decipher the reasoning behind the government’s focus being on a particular target. Depending on the information acquired, you may have a multitude of options available that could allow you to avoid being indicted or resolve the case entirely.

Experience in handling legal matters at the federal level is often the determining factor in getting the best result for those who have received a target letter. If you have received a federal target letter, call our office today and speak with one of our federal criminal defense attorneys about your case.

Contact Us Today

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we have represented numerous clients in criminal matters at the federal court level. Schedule an initial consultation with one of our federal criminal defense attorneys today to discuss your legal options.

For your convenience and safety, we now offer video and phone conferencing. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach locations in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville. Call now at 704-370-2828