Federal investigations can be tricky. Here are some ways to make them even harder on yourself.
If you find out that you are involved in a federal law enforcement investigation I would like to talk to you about what you should not do.
First do not talk to other people about the investigation. This is for two reasons. First, if you go and talk to someone you could later be charged with obstruction of justice, if what you told them was “hey you remember this stuff they are investigating, well I think we should remember it a little bit differently.”
If you are trying to go to somebody who could be a witness and tell them that their memory ought to be a little bit different or even coming close to telling them their memory ought to be a little bit different or even asking them what their memory was so that maybe your memory should be a little bit different, you are running the risk of a prosecution for obstruction of justice. This can be so much worse, it’s the old adage that the cover up can sometimes be worse than the crime.
The second thing that can go bad if you go talk to somebody else about the investigation is that they can be subpoenaed. Or law enforcement can go talk to them. If they are subpoenaed, if they are brought into a grand jury, then whatever you said to them can then come out in the grand jury and that can only be bad for you.
So don’t talk to anyone else about the investigation.
The second thing you should not do is destroy documents. It should be really obvious why. If there are documents that show something related to an investigation – don’t destroy them. It’s a crime.
Especially on computers, the Government is so good at finding out when electronic documents were destroyed and really using that against you. Please don’t destroy documents. Don’t delete files. Even modifying files can be a problem. If you go into an excel spreadsheet that matters a lot to the Government and you just delete the problematic values, that can be a federal crime. That can be obstruction of justice.
If you are going to talk to somebody with the government, don’t lie. Lying is the third thing you should not do if you are under investigation by the federal Government. If you talk to law enforcement or you are talking to grand jury and you lie, that’s a separate crime. Lying to federal agents is a crime and that crime can get prosecuted. Martha Stewart was prosecuted for that crime.
So if you are going to talk to the government, don’t lie.
Probably the biggest best thing you can do if you are under investigation is to please talk to a lawyer before you decide what else you are going to do.