Public Corruption and Bribery Defense Lawyers

Public corruption and bribery cover a broad range of federal crimes. If you are under investigation or facing charges, you need to engage experienced federal defense counsel immediately.

Among all of the crimes established under federal law, those that involve threats to the public or our system of democracy are perhaps the most-heavily prosecuted of all. Multiple federal agencies have divisions, personnel, and resources devoted exclusively to uncovering public corruption and bribery, and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) aggressively prosecutes these crimes. If you are under investigation or facing charges, you could be facing career-threatening and life-altering penalties, and it is important that you speak with a federal defense lawyer right away.

At Oberheiden P.C., we represent public officials, government agents, civil servants, and private citizens in federal public corruption and bribery cases nationwide. We also represent attorneys, accountants, and other professionals accused of facilitating unlawful payments and other transactions. We can help regardless of the allegations against you, and we can use our extensive experience in these types of cases to diligently pursue a favorable result that protects your reputation and keeps you out of prison.

What Constitutes Public Corruption or Bribery?

There are multiple forms of public corruption and bribery that can lead to federal charges. Broadly speaking, public corruption involves taking action in an official capacity in order to serve one’s own self-interest. For example, if a politician who has been elected to federal office accepts a private gift in exchange for advancing a particular policy position, this would be a fairly straightforward case of public corruption under federal law.

Bribery involves promising something of value in exchange for an official or political favor. Crucially, an exchange does not actually have to take place in order for the federal crime of bribery to occur. Both the offeror and the offeree can face prosecution, and individuals who are only incidentally or tangentially involved in a proposed or actual exchange can face prosecution as co-conspirators as well.

In addition to these general forms of public corruption and bribery, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has identified four specific types of public corruption and bribery that are specific priorities under the agency’s Public Corruption Unit. These are:

  • Election Crimes – As explained by the FBI, “[f]ederal election crimes fall into three broad categories—campaign finance crimes, voter/ballot fraud, and civil rights violations.” Depending on the circumstances involved, crimes in each of these three categories have the potential to involve elements of public corruption.
  • International Corruption – International corruption cases typically involve violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), including foreign corruption targeting federal elections and bribery involving U.S. agents and officials. 
  • Border Corruption – “Common acts of border corruption involve drug trafficking and alien smuggling. Throughout the U.S., the FBI has investigated corrupt government and law enforcement officials who accept bribes and gratuities in return for [facilitating illegal activity].”
  • Prison Corruption – “The FBI’s prison corruption initiative . . . addresses contraband smuggling by local, state, and federal prison officials in exchange for bribe payments.” Prison officials, inmates, and co-conspirators outside of the prison system can all face serious allegations in these cases.

What are the Charges for Public Corruption and Bribery?

Depending on the specific circumstances involved, allegations of public corruption or bribery can potentially lead to charges under a variety of different federal criminal statutes. Some of the most-common charges in these cases include:

  • Bribery of a Public Official (18 U.S.C. Section 201(b)) – Under 18 U.S.C. Section 201(b)(1), it is illegal to promise anything of value to a public official with the intent to influence an official act or to influence the official to commit or aid in the commission of a crime. Under Section 201(b)(2), it is illegal for public officials to demand, seek, accept, or agree to accept anything of value for a corrupt purpose.
  • Illegal Gratuity to a Public Official (18 U.S.C. Section 201(c)) – Under 18 U.S.C. Section 201(c), it is illegal to give, offer, promise, demand, seek, accept, or agree to accept a gratuity in exchange for the performance of an official act.
  • Violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (15 U.S.C. Section 78dd-1 et seq.) – Under the FCPA, “issuers,” “domestic concerns,” and “certain foreign nationals” can face criminal prosecution for corruptly influencing both U.S. and foreign government entities.
  • Embezzlement or Theft of Government Assets (18 U.S.C. Section 641) – Many cases of public corruption will involve violations of 18 U.S.C. Section 641, which imposes criminal penalties for embezzling, stealing, converting, receiving, or concealing government money or property.
  • Attempt and Conspiracy (18 U.S.C. Section 1349) Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1349, individuals who conspire to commit public corruption or bribery, or who attempt to procure corrupt payments or benefits, can face the same penalties that apply when the underlying offense is fully committed.

In addition to these charges, federal prosecutors will often pursue a number of more-general charges in public corruption and bribery cases as well. For example, in addition to one or more of the offenses listed above, it is also common for individuals accused of public corruption and bribery to face charges for:

What are the Possible Sentences for Public Corruption and Bribery?

In federal criminal cases, sentencing is often (though not always) determined under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines. In addition, most federal criminal statutes establish the maximum sentences for the offenses they proscribe. With regard to the crimes listed above, the maximum sentences are:

  • Bribery of a Public Official – A fine of up to three times the monetary equivalent of the payment or item of value offered to the public official and up to 15 years of federal imprisonment.
  • Illegal Gratuity to a Public Official – Statutory fines and up to two years of federal imprisonment.
  • Violation of the FCPA – Up to a $100,000 fine (for individuals) and five years of federal imprisonment.
  • Embezzlement or Theft of Government Assets – Statutory fines and up to 10 years of federal imprisonment.
  • Attempt and Conspiracy – The same penalties imposed for the “successful” completion of the underlying offense.
  • Bank Fraud – Up to a $1 million fine and 30 years of federal imprisonment.
  • Mail and Wire Fraud – Up to a $1 million fine and 30 years of federal imprisonment.
  • Money Laundering – A fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved (whichever is greater) and up to 20 years of federal imprisonment.
  • Tax Fraud – Up to a $100,000 fine (for individuals) and five years of federal imprisonment.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden

Founder

Attorney-at-Law

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice

Local Counsel

Joanne Fine DeLena
Joanne Fine DeLena

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney & Former District Attorney

Local Trial & Defense Counsel

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former Federal Prosecutor

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (OIG)

Gamal Abdel-Hafiz
Gamal Abdel-Hafiz

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Chris Quick
Chris Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Kevin M. Sheridan
Kevin M. Sheridan

Former Special Agent (FBI)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Dennis A. Wichern
Dennis A. Wichern

Former Special Agent-in-Charge (DEA)

How Can the Attorneys at Oberheiden P.C. Defend You Against Public Corruption or Bribery Charges?

Due to the unique and complex nature of public corruption and bribery offenses, and due to the plethora of federal criminal statutes that can be implicated in these cases, building an effective defense strategy requires intimate familiarity with the government’s approach to prosecuting U.S. residents and foreign nationals accused of corruption and bribery-related crimes. At Oberheiden P.C., our attorneys have centuries of combined experience handling high-stakes federal cases, including prior experience as white-collar prosecutors with the DOJ.

In addition to our career defense attorneys and former federal prosecutors, our firm also has several former federal agents who serve as defense consultants in complex cases. This includes former Special Agents, Supervisory Special Agents, and Assistant Special Agents in Charge with the DOJ, FBI, and other agencies. Meet the individuals who will be working on your defense.

When representing clients charged with public corruption, bribery, and related offenses, we take a detailed and comprehensive approach that focuses on identifying deficiencies in the government’s case. Our goal with this approach is to convince the U.S. Attorneys who are handling the investigation that they do not have sufficient evidence to move forward with seeking an indictment. If we can resolve your case at the investigative stage, we can avoid the uncertainty of the judicial process, and we can keep any publicity as limited as possible.

In terms of specific defenses to public corruption and bribery charges, here too, the possibilities depend on the specific charges being pursued. Intent is often a key factor, as federal prosecutors must be able to prove that you intended to influence an official act (or carry out an official act) for an unlawful purpose. The fact that no bribe was actually paid generally is not a defense (as promising or seeking payment is sufficient to establish criminal culpability); however, there are various other facts and circumstances that can potentially provide complete defenses to criminal culpability.

Regardless of the circumstances involved, if you are under federal investigation for public corruption or bribery, it is important that you engage experienced defense counsel immediately. To discuss your situation with a senior attorney at Oberheiden P.C., request a free and confidential case assessment today.

Contact Us Now for a Free and Confidential Case Assessment

To speak with a federal criminal defense attorney at Oberheiden P.C. about your public corruption or bribery case, call us at 888-680-1745 or contact us online. We are available 24/7, and we have attorneys and former agents available to provide representation and advice nationwide.

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