What Constitutes a False Statement to Law Enforcement Agents?
What Is the False Statements Act?
The False Statements Accountability Act (18 U.S.C. § 1001) criminalizes the act of intentionally misleading a government agent. Congress enacted that statute “to protect the authorized functions of government departments and agencies from the perversion which might result” from intentional and material misrepresentations. United States v. Gilliland, 312 U.S. 86 (1941). Prosecutors often use the False Statement Act to charge, or threaten to charge, a defendant who does not fully cooperate with a government investigation. If convicted of violating the Act, a person faces up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $ 250,000 (individual) or $ 500,000 (business).
What Are “False Statements”?
A “false statement” may be a material omission, a material misrepresentation, or the use of a fraudulent document. The person making the statement must do so “knowingly and willfully”; in other words, the person must intend to deceive the government agent. Importantly, the statement does not need to be made under oath or in response to a court order; the statute applies to “any false or fraudulent statements or representations.” Neely v. United States, 300 F.2d 67 (9th Cir. 1962).
What Does the Government Need to Prove?
In order to convict a defendant of making a false statement, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, each of the following five elements:
- The defendant made a statement;
- The statement is a false statement, as defined by the statute;
- The statement is material;
- The statement was made “knowingly and willfully”; and
- The statement was made within the purview of a government agency.
See United States v. Abraham, 678 F.3d 370 (5th Cir. 2012).
About Our Practice
Oberheiden, P.C. is a team of former federal prosecutors and experienced criminal defense counsel who assist clients from across the country to avoid, dismiss, or mitigate federal criminal charges. If you are being investigated by the government, we can advise you on how to avoid violating the False Statements Act during the investigative process. If you have already been charged with violating the Act, we can put together a defensive strategy to help you minimize or even avoid criminal sanctions.
If you need assistance in defending or avoiding a charge of making a false statement to the government, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Oberheiden, P.C. Get a free and confidential consultation and benefit from talking to former federal and state prosecutors and experienced litigators.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden, founder of Oberheiden P.C., focuses his litigation practice on white-collar criminal defense, government investigations, SEC & FCPA enforcement, and commercial litigation.