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Responding to a Target Letter: First Steps to Take


Responding to a Target Letter: First Steps to Take

Receiving a target letter from the government can be an intimidating and stressful experience. This letter indicates that you are under investigation for possible criminal charges. While concerning, it is important not to panic. There are steps you can take to respond appropriately and protect your rights.

What is a Target Letter?

A target letter is sent by a prosecuting agency like the Department of Justice to notify you that you are a target of an investigation . This means prosecutors have evidence to suggest you may have been involved in illegal activity. Common investigations that prompt target letters include:

  • Tax fraud
  • Medicare/Medicaid fraud
  • Financial crimes like money laundering or embezzlement
  • Bribery
  • Other white collar crimes

While being named a target does not necessarily mean you will be criminally charged, it does indicate the investigation against you is advanced and charges are possible. Even if you believe you have done nothing wrong, take this letter very seriously.

Don’t Panic But Do Seek Legal Counsel

The most important first step when receiving a target letter is to contact an experienced white collar criminal defense attorney . While your natural inclination may be to panic, try to remain calm. An attorney can help you navigate the investigation process and protect your rights.

Attempting to deal with federal prosecutors without legal representation is not advisable. The law contains complexities that make it difficult to self-advocate effectively. An attorney is there to be your guide and advocate. They can assess the strength of the case against you and apply their expertise to create the best defense strategy.

How an Attorney Can Help

An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can provide a number of important protections and benefits, such as:

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
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Brendan huisman
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Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
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Keisha Parris
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Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
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Anthony Williams
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Loveth Okpedo
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Bee L
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divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.
  • Assessing the strength of the prosecutor’s case against you
  • Negotiating with the prosecutor regarding potential charges or a plea bargain
  • Advising you on whether to participate in an interview with investigators
  • Protecting your constitutional rights throughout the investigation
  • Developing an overall strategic defense to fight the charges

Having an attorney does not imply guilt – even innocent people need strong legal defense. So don’t let fear of appearing guilty stop you from obtaining counsel.

Respond Carefully to the Letter

Your target letter will likely provide instructions on reaching out to the prosecuting legal team. You may be asked to schedule an interview. Declining an interview should always be your first step according to defense lawyers .

Voluntarily participating in an interview when you are the target of an investigation is fraught with peril. Anything you say can and likely will be used against you. So attempting to talk your way out of charges or explain away evidence is not advisable. Let your attorney handle communication with investigators.

The letter may also instruct you to begin preserving documentation relevant to the investigation. This can include financial records, communications, computer files, and more. Failure to preserve these materials could result in obstruction charges. Your attorney can provide precise guidance on evidence to preserve.

Assemble Your Legal Team

In addition to promptly hiring an experienced white collar crime attorney, you may benefit from building out a legal team to include other relevant specialists. Common additions include:

  • Forensic accountants: can analyze complex financial records and transactions central to your case .
  • Digital forensics experts: help preserve, analyze, and present electronic evidence from computers, phones, company networks, etc.
  • Former federal prosecutors: offer insight into prosecution strategies and tactics .

Building the right legal team provides the best chance of success even when facing serious federal charges.

Avoid Some Common Missteps

Receiving a target letter can spur panic and poor decision-making. Be aware of some common missteps made by investigation targets so you can avoid them, including:

  • Tampering with evidence: Once you are under investigation, destroying or altering any relevant evidence is illegal.
  • Obstructing justice: Lying to investigators or encouraging others to provide false testimony can constitute obstruction of justice charges.
  • Fleeing: Leaving town or the country to avoid charges will only make matters worse. Face the music with experienced legal counsel.

While the impulse to take these actions is understandable, avoid them. Let your legal team handle responding to investigators appropriately.

Stage Key Actions
Receipt of Target Letter
  • Remain calm
  • Contact experienced criminal defense attorney
  • Preserve relevant evidence
Early Investigation Phase
  • Build out legal team
  • Decline investigator interview
  • Follow attorney guidance

The Bottom Line

Receiving a target letter marks the beginning of a difficult legal journey. While the prospect may seem daunting, understand federal convictions are often preventable with prompt, strategic action. Lean on experienced white collar crime lawyers to protect your rights and develop an aggressive defense strategy. With the right legal team on your side, even severe charges can be overcome.



Here are some additional resources on responding to a target letter:

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