Any criminal investigation can create stress for the person being investigated. A federal investigation creates a highly elevated level of stress, not only for the subject of the investigation, but for witnesses as well. The federal criminal justice system has vast resources and a great deal of power. Whether you face questioning pertaining to corporate crime, Internet fraud, tax evasion or any other white collar crime, you need to understand the potential ramifications of your participation in the investigation and how to protect your interests.
Often, long before federal investigators make their presence known to investigational targets, they call on the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). While NW3C has no investigative authority, it has access to data and the technical knowledge to uncover criminal patterns and even locate suspects. Even when questioning begins, investigators typically do not alert suspects until they talk to many people who can provide more information about the target:
- Vendors or other individuals who may unwittingly witness crimes
While interviewing such people is designed to find evidence against a suspect, witnesses need to recognize that they can easily become suspects.
Certainly, a suspect in a white collar criminal investigation needs to call on experienced legal support as soon as he or she discovers that an investigation is underway. Additionally, since one wrong answer can connect anyone to the crime, even witnesses would be wise to seek legal advice before agreeing to answer any questions. As a witness, you do not generally have the same legal protections as someone under indictment for a crime, but you need a lawyer can help you understand the degree of help you must provide - and what can happen if you refuse to cooperate.
If you are under suspicion or actually indicted for a white collar crime, do not count on an attorney whose sole interest may not be protecting your rights - for example, a lawyer representing your company - to represent your interests. You must retain your own legal support from a criminal defense attorney with extensive experience in white collar crime.