Criminal Defense of Federal Employees

Attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden Has Substantial Experience Representing Current AUSAs, Special Agents, and Government Officials against OPR, OIG, and DOJ Investigations

Even prosecutors, law enforcement agents, and government officials sometimes need an attorney. Dr. Nick Oberheiden is the founder of Oberheiden P.C., a nationally available federal defense law firm. Nick has represented special agents, current DOJ officials, State Department officials, police officers, and individuals with top security clearance in internal DOJ-OIG investigations, OPR proceedings, as well as formal federal criminal investigations such as Grand Jury cases across the United States including but not limited to Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, District of Columbia, Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, and North Dakota. Nick represents active and current members of the following agencies:

  • U.S. Department of State
  • U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Assistant United States Attorneys (AUSAs)
  • Bureau of Prisons
  • Border Patrol & Department of Homeland Security

Nick is intrinsically familiar with the procedure unique to investigating federal employees and law enforcement personnel. Among the cases Nick has handled recently are the following:

  • Conspiracy Allegations
  • Public Corruption & Bribery
  • Money Laundering
  • Credit Card Fraud
  • Theft & Embezzlement
  • Misappropriation of Government’s Funds
  • Falsifying Government Records
  • Drug Trafficking
  • Computer Offenses (e.g. Pornography)

Nick has worked with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Department in Washington D.C., the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), as well as with local U.S. Attorney’s Offices and OIG Investigators across the United States to resolve allegations of misconduct against federal employees in the following stages:

  • Formal Indictment
  • Grand Jury Proceedings
  • Defense Against Search Warrant
  • OPR Investigation
  • Witness Testimony & Proffer
  • OIG Interview Requests

If you are a current federal employee and you were contacted by investigators about a criminal matter, consider calling attorney Dr. Nick Oberheiden directly to get a free and confidential assessment. Unlike many other lawyers, Nick will not need an introduction to how internal OIG investigations work but instead he can immediately provide you with proven and effective legal advice.

What Agencies Investigate Federal Employees?

In essence, there are two main agencies tasked to investigate misconduct of federal employees: The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and the Office of Inspector General (OIG). Both agencies enjoy unusual independence and separation compared to the litigation branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In a nutshell, OPR has exclusive jurisdiction to look into allegations of professional misconduct made against members of the Justice Department and law enforcement personnel relating to how they exercised their ethical and professional obligations. By contrast, the Office of Inspector General is tasked to uncover fraud, waste, and abuse by Department employees and programs. Frequently, the two agencies work closely together and may share and refer information, in particular in occurrences of whistleblower retaliation originating from current, former, or prospective FBI employees.

Should I Allow OIG Investigators to Interview Me?

Most federal employees first hear about a pending investigation when they get a surprise visit or call by a Special Agent from the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG agency is a hybrid agency tasked to investigate crimes externally (e.g. healthcare fraud in connection with the FBI) as well as internally within the U.S. Justice Department. Any notification from an OIG agent is very meaningful. Most federal agents under investigation underestimate the nature of the visit and realize only later that these OIG agents are not friendly colleagues but paid to uncover internal corruption and other offenses.

Without any exception, you should never volunteer for an interview with law enforcement. Even though you may very well understand the general procedure of an investigation, when you are the center of that investigation, the rules have turned. Consult with an attorney and do not discuss or handle the investigation yourself. Just like any other person contacted by a federal agent, you will be subject to 18 U.S.C. 1001, which means that anything you say, and share is the equivalent to testifying in federal court. If you withhold information, if you minimize your role, if you mislead or misrepresent, if you provide only selective information, if you lie, if you fail in any way to share the complete truth—you could expose yourself to formal charges for making a false statement.

The only correct course of action is to withstand the temptation to handle the matter right then and there, and, instead, display respect and patience by simply asking for the investigator’s information so that an attorney can subsequently contact the agent for you and your behalf. Note that the investigating agents will not be able to disclose to you what the investigation is about, but they or the supervising government attorney will do so to your attorney. Avoid entering this one-way-street trap in which you answer questions (without an attorney) and not a single one of your questions will be answered by the agents.

Once again, no matter how experienced you are, no matter how innocent you are, when you become the focus of an investigation or part thereof, you cannot act like you control the situation. Be smart, get a defense attorney that can competently advise you and that can find out for you first why exactly the government is interested in your testimony.

Am I A Witness, Subject, or a Target?

Quickly, the question becomes: in what capacity does the government contact me? Am I a mere witness, a subject, or even a target of a criminal action? As stated above, the approaching OIG/OPR agents will not disclose your status to you, or, in the alternative, may even lie about it. While your misrepresenting a fact to the government investigators can expose you to a federal felony for making a false statement, investigators do have the right to lie, and, for tactical reasons, that is not a rare occurrence. The most reliable and fastest way to find out about the allegations and your role in the case is for your attorney to speak directly to the prosecutor supervising the case.

Target.  A person designated as a “target” faces the most substantial risk and potential for serious consequences. The definition of a “target” is specified in Section 9-11.151 of the United States Attorney Manual. The full text of the definition is as follows: “A “target” is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant. An officer or employee of an organization which is a target is not automatically considered a target even if such officer’s or employee’s conduct contributed to the commission of the crime by the target organization. The same lack of automatic target status holds true for organizations which employ, or employed, an officer or employee who is a target.”

Subject. A “subject” of an investigation is a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation. In terms of criminal exposure, a “subject” falls on the spectrum somewhere between a “target” and a “witness.” The prosecutor may believe a “subject” has engaged in criminal activity but does not have the corroborating evidence yet to label this individual as a “target.”

Witness. A “witness” is an individual who may information that law enforcement believes might be relevant in a criminal investigation to help prove either the guilt or the innocence of another individual. The criminal exposure of a “witness” is low – the prosecutor generally believes a “witness” did not do anything wrong but has information to aid the pending investigation.

Call Oberheiden P.C. For a Confidential Discussion of Your Case

Oberheiden P.C. has the experience and the track record you are looking for if you are a federal employee finding yourself in an internal investigation or even exposed to criminal charges. Dr. Nick Oberheiden has successfully represented Special Agents from numerous agencies, Assistant United States Attorneys, and other government employees in a plethora of cases. Call us today at (214) 692-2171 or inquire online to see how we can work together to get your case resolved to protect your reputation, your government status and benefits, and your freedom.

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