Federal officers can be aggressive when investigating suspected cases of white-collar crime such as fraud. They may appear unannounced at the doors of your business, asking if they can interview you or search your office records. They may even assure you that you are not the target of the investigation.
Should you let them in? What if you have nothing to hide?
Talking to federal officer without legal advice can be hazardous to your business and your freedom. Even if you feel you have done nothing wrong, allowing federal officers to enter your business without a search warrant is a mistake. What you don't see as a problem could be a crime in the eyes of the federal government.
It never pays to talk to investigators before you have talked to a lawyer. Here are just a few things that can go wrong:
- Investigators could take equipment and records you need to conduct your business.
- You or people who work for you could make statements the federal government considers incriminating.
- If you make a false statement, you could be charged with the crime of lying to a federal law enforcement officer. Just ask Martha Steward where this can land you.
Federal investigators can seem both friendly and threatening-friendly if you cooperate, threatening if you don't give them what they want. The best response to either approach is to be courteous and to say that your attorney does not want you to give interviews or allow law enforcement officer onto the premises without legal counsel.
Even if the law enforcement officer assures you that you are not the target of the investigation, that can change in the course of the investigation. Some business owners start out as witnesses and end up as defendants in criminal cases.
To protect yourself, seek legal advice from an attorney who regularly defends people accused of federal crimes.