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Federal Criminal Defense

False Statements Defense


What are False Statements?

Lying to the government is a crime, and like just about everyone else, federal authorities are not fond of people lying to them. It should come as no surprise then that federal prosecutors have a variety of charges available to prosecute a person they think lied to them. In fact, sometimes they will even include a charge of false statement in an indictment to gain more leverage against the indicted individual.

What is the Federal Statute Dealing with False Statements?

The false statements charge most commonly used by federal prosecutors is under the general false statements statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, but examples of other federal statutes that prohibit making false statements for specific areas include 26 U.S.C. § 7206 (making false statements related to taxes and the IRS), and 18 U.S.C. § 1035 (false statements “involving a health care benefits program.”).

Section 1001 makes it a federal crime to falsely state or conceal anything from a federal authority, such as federal law enforcement investigators or anyone belonging to any executive agency, the legislative or judicial branch of the federal government. Basically, lying to anyone in the federal government is a crime under Section 1001. It is important to note that a person could face multiple charges of making false statements.

How Do You Prove a False Statements Charge?

Section 1001 is a simple and short statute, but do not let that fool you. Its simplicity makes it relatively simple to prove in court and, considering it applies to every situation involving the federal government, section 1001 is thus an immensely powerful and useful tool for United States Attorneys.

Here are the elements the government must prove to convict a person charged with making false statements:

The false statement must be “material.” The government must prove that the defendant’s false statement was “material.” A statement is material if it has “a natural tendency to influence or is capable of influencing” the federal investigator or federal agent to whom it is made.

In other words, a statement is “material” if it is important and relevant to the subject matter of discussion.

In a criminal investigation, for example, any information or facts that might be relevant to locating, charging, or convicting suspects are material and thus satisfy this requirement. Importantly, it does not matter whether the investigator actually believes the lie. Even if the investigator knows the statement is false, it may still be material.

That means if an FBI agent were to ask you a question as part of his criminal investigation, you were to answer him or her with a lie, and if the agent knew you were lying, then that false statement would be still material.

The false statement must be made “knowingly and willingly.” The government must prove the person that made the false statement intended to be dishonest. In most parts of the country, the government need only prove that the person knew the statement was false when they made it.

In other parts of the country, courts placed a higher burden on federal prosecutors by requiring them to prove that the person knew it was unlawful to make the false statement when they made it.

Fortunately, this stricter definition of this element has been the Department of Justice’s preferred interpretation since 2014.

The statement was made regarding a matter within jurisdiction of the federal government. Federal judges have interpreted this requirement of section 1001 broadly, concluding that jurisdiction exists wherever the federal government has the power to act or regulate. This means that the government can easily meet this jurisdictional element in healthcare, the economy, government contracting, taxes, currency, and many more areas.

Who is Investigating False Statements?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) are the most likely agencies investigating persons suspected of making false statements, as these two are the main law enforcement agencies of the federal government.

Considering that this charge applies to entire federal government, any part of the federal government might be involved in an investigation if the suspected false statement was within their jurisdiction.

Other federal agencies likely investigating making false statements include the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

What is the Punishment for False Statements?

The statutory punishment for making false statements under section 1001 includes an assessment of fines and a term of imprisonment, but sentencing varies with each case’s unique set of facts, the presiding judge, and factors considered under the federal sentencing guidelines, which you can read more about here.

Is False Statements a Felony?

Yes, making false statements is a felony under federal law.

What is the Maximum Prison Sentence for False Statements?

5 years is the maximum term of imprisonment for making false statements under section 100.

8 years is the maximum term of imprisonment if the offense involves terrorism.

What is the Minimum Sentence for False Statements?

Every sentence in a federal cases is based on the federal sentencing guidelines, which considers a multitude of factors, such as prior criminal history, use of a gun, or position of trust, to calculate a recommended range that the federal judge may use as a guide for sentencing, however the presiding judge ultimately reserves final discretion at sentencing. Thus, as long as the judge provides a reasonable basis for their decision on record, the judge may make what is called a “departure from the guidelines” and sentence the defendant to a term of imprisonment outside the recommended range. You can learn more about the sentencing under the federal sentencing guidelines here.

Will I Be Required to Pay Back Restitution?

Possibly, as it depends on the charges you are convicted of and the unique facts of your case. Ultimately, however, final discretion remains with the judge presiding over sentencing. Factors that also will help determine whether restitution will be required include whether there are victims of the convicted charges, whether those victims suffered compensable harm, the federal sentencing guidelines, and many more.

Can the Government Seize my Assets During an Investigation? After Conviction?

Possibly, as it again depends on the charges alleged in the indictment and the unique facts of your case As mentioned above, the charges and facts alleged in the indictment shape the scope of the entire criminal proceeding, including assets subject to pre-trial seizures and final forfeiture as part of sentencing, if convicted. You can learn more about the sentencing under the federal sentencing guidelines here.

How is the Government Prosecuting False Statements Related to Covid-19?

See our news page for recent updates on COVID-19 fraud cases here.

Investigators Contacted Me: What Do I Do?

You should only speak with law enforcement investigator regarding anything related to COVID-19 fraud or any other related crime after you have spoken to a criminal defense lawyer. Period.

A common question from people involved in a criminal investigation is at what point can they finally clear their name and share their part of the story. That is normal. If you have read this far, then you should know by now the last thing you want to do is make any false statements to the investigators.

You, at the same time, have probably heard investigators, prosecutors, and others taking the situation out of context, bending the truth, and misunderstanding what actually happened. They are relying on people who are lying, and the whole situation is outrageous and humiliating for you.

You should know that the Fifth Amendment exists to protect anyone accused of a crime from incriminating themselves, and the truth is it takes only one split-second mistake to get unnecessarily tied up in a prolonged criminal investigation that will place a heavy financial and time-consuming burden for you and loved ones. Do not go swimming with sharks alone and without a cage.

Even if you think you have done nothing wrong, you need to speak with a COVID-19 fraud defense attorney to obtain sound legal advice before you speak with federal investigators.

You should contact a defense lawyer that has decades of experience handling criminal investigations before you engage with investigators. Balancing cooperation and protecting your constitutional rights and liberties requires a defense attorney that knows how to handle federal investigators.

When Should I Contact a Federal Fraud Defense Lawyer?

If you have been contacted or anticipate contact from federal COVID-19 fraud investigators, then you should contact and speak with a COVID-19 fraud defense lawyer to protect yourself, your freedom, and financial stability. You will not be able to talk yourself out of the crosshairs – you’ll only be wound up in a web of investigation tactics.

How Can Schiffer Law Firm Help Me?

You need a fraud defense lawyer who knows what they’re doing and has a proven track record of experience defending federal fraud cases. Schiffer law firm has over four decades of experience defending clients involved in federal criminal investigations and clients accused of federal crimes. The fraud defense lawyers at Schiffer law firm know how to handle federal fraud cases from first contact by investigators to overturning wrongful convictions on appeal.

Does Schiffer Law Firm Only Defend People in Texas?

Schiffer law firm attorneys has and continues to defend people needing fraud defense attorneys nationwide. Nobody is too small, and nowhere is too far. If you think you need to speak to a fraud defense attorney, give us a call today.