If you have received a letter from a United States Attorneys Office in your area stating that you are a target in, or the subject of, a federal criminal investigation, that’s not news you want to hear. It’s also not something you want to ignore.
These letters are known as “target letters,” and about the only thing good about receiving a target letter is that the letters at least give you some warning about the fact the federal government thinks you committed a federal crime, such as conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud, or money laundering.
Targets, Suspects, and Witnesses
Generally speaking, when it comes to federal investigations, there are targets, suspects, and witnesses. Targets are people who are the focus of a federal grand jury panel; in other words, targets are the people the Assistant US Attorney wants to indict. Witnesses are the people who might have minimal criminal responsibility, but who may have information that will help the AUSA convince the grand jury to indict the target. (This not to say that witnesses can’t get indicted; they can, but it isn’t quite as often.) Suspects are those people who aren’t necessarily the focus of the investigation, but who might have a little more criminal responsibility than a mere witness.
If you receive one of these target letters, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get indicted. You should, however, at the very least contact an attorney to discuss the nature of the allegations contained in the target letter and to discuss your options. Ignoring the target letter means that you are absolutely at the mercy of the federal government; proactively acting on the target letter by consulting an attorney with substantial federal criminal defense experience will at least give you a better chance to drive the narrative in your favor.