WHAT IS A TARGET LETTER? JUNE 28, 2016
Detroit Federal Criminal Defense Attorney Edward Bajoka’s Advice on What to Do If You Receive a Target Letter
You find a letter in your mailbox from the U.S. Attorney’s office. With shaky hands, you open the letter only to find that you are the target of a Federal investigation. Be it the FBI, DEA, USSS, ATF, or DHS/HIS—you have just received what is commonly known as a “target letter.”
What should you do?
First off, keep quiet. As tempted as you may be to call a friend or family member for advice, it’s critically important that you keep the target letter to yourself. Don’t discuss it with a friend, coworker, or even your spouse. You should immediately locate an attorney in your area that specializes in Federal Criminal Defense and hire him or her to help.
If you don’t, there are a number of things that can go wrong:
If you reply to the letter and speak to the Federal Government agency investigating you, you could be unwittingly admitting to a crime.
If you have provided any information about yourself and others without first discussing the letter with a Federal Criminal Defense attorney, you may be giving up the negotiating power you have with that information
- If you go into an interview with a Federal investigator on your own, you are a sitting duck! The Federal government is not your friend: They are looking to charge you with a crime, and that is how seriously you should treat a target letter. Protect yourself!
Think of a target letter the same way you would about the police knocking on your door to question you about a crime.
As a top Detroit Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, I have a lot of experience working with clients who have received target letters. Here’s an example:
A client came to my office with a target letter stating that he was suspected of committing fraud against a government agency. Instead of contacting Detroit Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers Bajoka Law Group immediately, he responded to the letter on his own and went in to speak to the FBI. Essentially, he spilled his guts and told them everything that he had done. The FBI charged him on multiple counts based solely on his statements.
Had the client come to me first, I would have contacted the U.S. Attorney as his lawyer and requested more details about the investigation until I agreed to bring him in. Generally, the U.S. Attorney will provide me with some verbal details of what they think the target has done wrong, and what they are looking for. I can then best advise my client on next steps, which are usually one of three things:
- The client and I go in to speak to the Federal investigator
- I help the client negotiate a deal
- I have the client do nothing
You absolutely do yourself a disservice going in blind without someone who understands the process and can negotiate for you.
My client ended up charged with multiple counts of fraud against a government agency. During the course of his own confession, he gave the government information about other people committing the same crimes, which triggered a number of people being charged. Had he gone in and negotiated a deal with me as his Federal Criminal Defense Attorney, the charges likely would have been nominal in exchange for the information he provided about others—which was far more valuable to the government because of the severity of the crimes.
The lesson here is twofold: 1. Never under any circumstances respond to a target letter without first employing a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney to represent you. 2. Information is a tool that you can use as leverage.
Remember: It’s the government’s job to prove you are guilty of a crime; it’s not your job to prove you are innocent.