Tax Lawyer Blog

A Blog written by the Tax Attorneys for Individuals and Businesses

Are you a Witness in a Criminal Tax or White Collar Investigation?

This past November, the New York Times reported that a cooperating witness in the SAC Capital Advisors case was awaiting sentencing. That witness had provided substantial assistance with the investigation of the company and of identifying a number of individuals who would plead guilty to insider trading.

It is not uncommon for a cooperating witness to become the target of a white collar or criminal tax investigation. You may think that cooperation with investigators by answering a few simple questions cannot harm you. Your cooperation may backfire, however, since any statement you make to an investigator could end up helping them build a case against you.

White collar and criminal tax investigations are not fixed. A person’s status can quickly change from witness for the prosecution to subject in the investigation... to target of the investigation.

Harsh penalties for dishonesty

Even the most adept communicators slip up from time to time. Note that under 18 U.S. Code § 1001, any of the following may subject you to fines and up to five years’ imprisonment:

  1. Falsifying, concealing, or covering up a material fact of a case
  2. Making a statement that is materially false, fraudulent or fictitious
  3. Creating or using a false document or writing that contains any materially false, fraudulent or fictitious information

What this means is that any misleading statement to an investigator, including saying that you have never done business with a particular person when in fact you did at some point in the past, could subject you to felony charges.

Read more on False Statements here.

Take the Fifth

Under the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution is one of the few protections that individuals have in criminal investigations. It provides that an individual cannot be compelled to be a witness against himself. That is, a person has the right to decline to answer questions that may incriminate he or she.

As such, we remind you that if an agent for the government is asking you questions, you have the right to decline to answer any questions that might incriminate you - even if you are a witness. So if you are approached by an IRS agent or other government agency investigator, ask for their card and refuse to answer questions, and contact an experienced criminal tax attorney. They are well aware that you can cooperate in their investigation through your attorney.

White collar criminal defense attorneys in San Francisco

The white collar criminal defense attorneys at Moskowitz, LLP utilize an integrated approach to handling the wide range of issues that usually accompany a criminal investigation. Our firm has more than 30 years’ experience representing defendants in criminal and civil matters and have helped many of our firm’s clients avoid prosecution. If you have been contacted by an IRS agent or other government official, contact our office without delay.

Some of our recent representation of witness include, but are not limited to:

  • *Represented a Witness (tax preparer) called by the Defense in a criminal FBAR prosecution. We were able to obtain an immunity agreement from the US Attorney's office prior to the witness being questioned by either the Prosecution or Defense.
  • *Representation of a Witness who was a customer of a call girl operation being investigated by IRS - CI in Las Vegas. We were able to obtain an immunity agreement from the US Attorney's office.
  • *Represented a individual involved in an OID scheme. We were able to obtain a Queen For a Day Immunity Agreement and the individual was treated as a witness rather than an indicted co-conspirator.

* Disclaimer: The description anywhere on this web site of the results of any specific case or transaction does not mean or suggest that similar results can or could be obtained in any other matter. Each legal matter should be considered to be unique and subject to varying results.

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