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What To Do First If You Get A Target Letter

People often speculate and some will even joke that they are the target of a federal investigation. However, receiving a target letter stating you are indeed being investigated is no laughing matter. A target letter can confirm your worst suspicions so you should take it very seriously. If you have recently received a target letter, here are some actions you should take.

#1. Understand how Target Letters Work

What is a target letter? Basically a target letter is an official documents sent from a United States attorney letting you know you are the target of an investigation. The letter may also ask you to come in and “proffer” or cooperate with authorities in exchange for protection. This could be in the way of an interview, providing testimony to a grand jury, or turning over certain other evidence.

In sending a target letter, prosecutors hope to scare you into taking action. Many times, the thought of doing prison time is enough to make people squeal-particularly if they believe they are also being protected in the process. The truth is that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law, which is why you should never speak to the authorities without legal counsel present.

#2. Hire an Attorney for your Target Letter

By the time you receive a target letter, the feds have already set their sights on you. This means that at least a partial investigation has already taken place and that an arrest may even be imminent. Others in your circle may have also received a target letter providing essentially the same instructions. If one of them proffers first, your chances of leniency just got a whole lot slimmer.

In situations like this, it can be difficult to know what you should do. On one hand, you do not want to admit guilt but on the other you do not want to let someone else throw you under the bus. An attorney can help tremendously in these situations by:

• Ensuring you do not inadvertently give up your rights. Remember that anything you tell a prosecutor is admissible in court. As such, you’ll want to have an agreement in place before you start spilling your guts.
• Seeing that you get a fair plea deal should you decide to go that route. Just because you plead guilty does not mean you have to take whatever offer is on the table. Your lawyer can better advise you when to accept a plea bargain and when to walk away.
• Forcing the government to prove its case. Maybe you are falsely accused or the feds have very thin evidence. In that instance, you could be better off taking your case to court.
• Preparing you to answer questions during a court trial or deposition. A lawyer can help you be honest and truthful without providing more information than what is required.

#3. Do not Destroy Evidence After the Target Letter

The target letter will spell out which agency is initiating the investigation. Chances are you have probably had some contact with that agency before and therefore have a good idea what the investigation is about. You could be tempted to hide, destroy, or alter any evidence you believe might pertain to that matter. 18 USC § 1519 imposes fines and prison time of up to 20 years for anyone who willfully destroys evidence pertaining to a federal crime.

If you do possess what you feel could be evidence, you may want to hand that over to your attorney. Having your lawyer look at it will make it easier for him or her to anticipate what moves a U.S. attorney might make next.

Have you recently received a target letter? If so do not panic-you are still innocent until proven guilty. At the same time, you should also know that the federal government has nearly unlimited resources and may therefore pursue you relentlessly. An attorney with extensive experience dealing with federal or white collar crimes is the best line of defense for anyone who has gotten the dreaded target letter.

What should you do if you receive a target letter?

This letter is indicating that you are on notice, as a result of an investigation. If you get a target of investigation letter from the DOJ, which is a federal agency, or the U.S. attorney’s office, you should call a federal criminal defense lawyer ASAP. This letter represents the pre-indictment stage of the process. The reason you are getting this letter is because you are being investigated for a federal crime. It’s critical you avoid contacting the prosecutor for an interview – because anything you say can, and will, be used against you.

What are Target Letters?

Any individual who is the target of an investigation will learn about the investigation via a formal notice from the federal government. The government will mention that you are the target of a criminal prosecution case. Once you receive this, you could be called to testify before a federal grand jury regarding possible criminal activity it is alleged you have participated in, or have knowledge about.

Target letters are frequently used in white collar cases, like securities, fraud, bribery, etc. This is the first indication a person gets that he, or she, is under investigation. If you get a target letter, you may be indicted. In federal criminal investigations, the DOJ usually sends target letters to people who are either the subject, or target, of a grand jury investigation.  Anyone who is considered a target is a person who the US Attorney’s office believes has evidence linking him, or her, to a crime.

Any subject of an investigation is a person who the federal government believes has information that could be helpful. If you’re a target, the government will tell you and mention it via a DOJ target letter. Prosecutors do not usually gather enough evidence to indict targets on criminal investigations. If you hire a criminal attorney at the right time, it’s possible to avoid a situation where a target letter becomes a full fledged criminal charge. Depending on the specifics of your case, an attorney can negotiate with federal prosecutors to close the investigation, respond to government inquiries, argue to reclassify you(the target) as a witness, and limit the scope of a potential investigation.

Information in a Target of Investigation Letter – Target Letters

The target letter you get will state crimes for which you’re being investigated by the DOJ. You are going to be told not to destroy/alter evidence related to the crime. Such acts are considered obstruction of justice. The target letter will also mention that you have the right to refuse to answer questions. Most letters you get, will ask you to take some type of action, like meet the AUSA, who is investigating your case, getting a court-appointed lawyer, and more. Regardless of what you are requested, it’s in your best interest to hire a criminal defense attorney. Most letters typically are putting you on notice, and informing you so you can prepare. If you do get a letter, it’s in your best interest to hire an attorney as soon as possible. Our criminal defense attorneys are on your side, and here to help you. Hiring a skilled criminal defense lawyer can help persuade the prosecutor to drop the investigation, depending on the facts of the case.

In cases where there is a pending indictment, your criminal defense lawyer might able to do things like:

  • Get early discovery
  • Look at the evidence against you
  • Negotiate with the prosecutor for a favorable plea agreement


If you get a letter from a federal prosecutors, then it might mean you’re the target of a grand jury investigation. It means you just got a target letter, and you’re about to get investigated by the government. It might mean that you already ARE being investigated by the government. If you get one of these letters, you must hire a lawyer who can help you. If you’re on our website, it means you will need to hire a lawyer. You may have scheduled an appointment, or be waiting for a call back from an attorney, but we recommend you take a proactive role in hiring a federal lawyer who can help you with your issues. Getting a target letter IS NOT a good thing.

One of the first things people wonder is, what do I do next? Should I do what the letter tells me to do? NO.

The letter asks you to do something. Some will ask you to come to a meeting with the Assistant United States Attorney who is investigating the case. Some, will tell you to come, and voluntarily testify before a grand jury. Some, will ask you to get a lawyer, and have that attorney contact the prosecutor.  Bottom line, regardless of what the letter is telling you to do, the best thing you can do is hire an attorney and have that lawyer reach out on your behalf. Some people are tempted to directly call the prosecutor and explain what happened. We don’t recommend doing this. In general, you should think very long and hard about speaking to federal law enforcement. Anything you tell the prosecutor can be used to secure an indictment against you.

In general anyone who is being investigated by the government is a target. In general, people are put into three categories: witness, subject, and target. If you’re a target, it means the investigators are looking into you. It means law enforcement individuals and prosecutors think you did something illegal.  Being the target of an investigation is different from being a subject. If you’re the subject – it means the feds think something illegal happened – and you have knowledge about it. Candidly, being the target of an investigation is the worst place to be – in an investigation.

There are options though.

The government might be locked in, on you, and is sending you this letter in order to get you to negotiate a plea deal. They want to go through the trouble of indicting you, and conducting a formal investigation. The AUSA investigating your case will give your lawyer some information, but not as much information as when charges are brought against you. You, and your lawyer, have time to talk about what information they have, and how likely it is for you to get convicted if you go to trial, and to see what the government is offering. Regardless of whether you plead, or don’t, the government is going to bring charges against you.

If the government isn’t focused on prosecuting you – then your attorney might have some room. He, or she, can meet with prosecutors, and the agent investigating your case, and see what information they have. Once your attorney has this information, he can meet with you and prepare a presentation that will be done to the prosecutor about why you should not be prosecuted. The Spodek Law Group has experience with this, but each case is different, and it really depends on the case.

In some cases, you might get lucky and the prosecutor is reassigned to another case. The case agent who was pressing the prosecution decides to retire. There can be a number of reasons why the the prosecution decides to drop the case, but it is hard to “bank” on something occurring for certain.

Avoid These Pitfalls When Under Federal Investigation

If you’ve been subjected to a federal criminal investigation, you’re probably under a great deal of stress. You may be confused or uncertain of how to handle the whole thing. This is a perfectly normal reaction. The severity and workings of a federal criminal or white-collar criminal case are very different than an equal or similar case on the state level. You’ll need the assistance of a skilled attorney that will fight for your rights. In many cases, we’ve been able to beat or significantly reduce the charges. A federal conviction can bring many negative consequences. Difficulty in finding employment, family and relationship strains, embarrassment, and significant fines and jail time can all occur if you’re not properly prepared.

How investigations work:

Federal investigations work by being notified by one of many ways or a combination of more than one. A target letter or a subpoena are common, especially with white collar crime investigations. These letters will inform you that you’re being investigated and what steps need to be taken. Another method is by a federal agent showing up at your doorstep and trying to question you regarding the matter. If you’re unavailable, they’ll leave contact information to get back to them. A search warrant is yet another method that’s utilized. Speaking to friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, or anyone else the feds deem useful in their investigation is also a common tactic. One way or another, they’re determined to get the information that they’ve been looking for. More information on federal investigations is available through the United States Department of Justice, Offices of the United States Attorneys website. Click here to visit the United States Department of Justice website.

In the investigations process, it’s imperative that you’re both compliant and hire an attorney at once. Misspoken words, misrepresentations or any damning evidence that’s obtained during this process will most likely be used against you. Your federal criminal investigation attorney will instruct you on how to handle these matters.

Things to avoid during the investigation process:


Being dishonest or making false representations:

Federal investigators are skilled at knowing exactly what to look for when hunting for information. Chances are, you didn’t invent the crime that you’re being accused of, so the chances of them having run into the same or a similar scenario is incredibly likely. They’re also used to dealing with people trying to fool them and can typically spot lies and dishonesty very quickly. Throughout history, many of the high-profile crimes that have been in the media are big stories not so much for the crime itself, but because the suspect had lied about it. Lying also often leads to additional charges being tacked on. The prosecutors will aggressively pursue these charges. This could significantly increase the fines and jail in many cases.

Destroying evidence and documents:

Destroying documentation and evidence is a sure-fire way raise red flags with an investigator. This includes any paperwork, electronic files such as email, or any correspondence. Even unrelated items should remain intact and stored as the normally would be. Any information or notes that aren’t seized for the purposes of the investigation should clearly be marked with “attorney-client privileged information” at the top of the document. This prevents the information from being shared unless it’s been deemed otherwise by your attorney. The destruction of evidence could lead you to additional charges including, (but not limited to) obstruction of justice.

Discussing your case with others:

Discussing your case with anyone including loved ones is strictly off limits. Anyone you share the information with may repeat it. This goes for even the most trustworthy friends and family members. If secretive or confidential information is leaked, it has a high potential for getting into the wrong hands and could destroy your case. This would also fall under the obstruction of justice umbrella. The matter should stay between yourself and your attorney, only.

Get yourself represented today:

Our federal criminal and white-collar crime attorneys can prepare a solid defense for your case. They have helped many others to either win their case or significantly reduce the charges. Don’t risk your future by hiring an inexperienced attorney or attempting to represent yourself. Get in touch with us and get the representation you deserve, today.

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Sep 21, 2020
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Helped me resolve the target letter

Getting a target letter isn't a good problem, but the spodek law group helps

What To Do First If You Get A Target Letter

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35-37 36th St,
Astoria, NY 11106


195 Montague St.
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85 Broad Street, 30th Floor
New York, NY 10005




35-37 36th St,
Astoria, NY 11106




195 Montague St.
14th Floor,
Brooklyn, NY 11201



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