Federal prosecutors mean business. You need a defense attorney who fights just as hard.

If you are under investigation in a federal crime or have already been charged, your future and freedom may be in jeopardy. 

Federal authorities such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, DEA, Secret Service or Homeland security may be involved in the investigation. These agencies have far greater resources than local law enforcement.

The federal government has the ability to intercept phone calls, collect video evidence and use other powerful tools in an investigation. Lastly, punishments for federal crimes can be severe. There are mandatory minimum sentences that can’t be negotiated.

You need a knowledgeable and aggressive federal criminal defense attorney who can bring the fight to the government. Robert M. Helfend is a federal criminal defense attorney who has been taking on federal prosecutors and winning since 1984. Call today for a free consultation – 800-834-6434.

What is a federal crime?

A federal crime is an offense that violates U.S. federal laws, as opposed to state or local laws. These crimes are investigated by federal agencies rather than local police departments, and they are prosecuted in federal courts.

Robert M. Helfend federal practice areas

Federal criminal defense attorney Robert M. Helfend accepts all types of cases in federal courts, including:

Arrest warrants & target letters

Federal arrest warrants command the arrest or detention of someone who has been suspected of committing a federal crime. Target letters, on the other hand, are notifications from federal prosecutors informing individuals they are the subject of a grand jury investigation, suggesting they may soon be charged with a crime.

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Credit card fraud

This involves the unauthorized use or theft of someone’s credit card information to make fraudulent transactions. It can encompass a range of activities from physically stealing a card, to copying card details without permission, to creating counterfeit cards.

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Cryptocurrency fraud

Cryptocurrencies are digital or virtual forms of currency that use cryptography for security, making them resistant to counterfeiting. They operate independently of a central authority or bank, and their decentralized nature is achieved through blockchain technology.

Because they operate outside the auspices of regulatory frameworks, they are sometimes subject to fraud and theft.

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Drug trafficking

Drug trafficking charges can apply to any step in the illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances subject to drug prohibition laws. Drug trafficking operations can be small-scale or vast networks, sometimes involving multiple countries.

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Embezzlement is the act of dishonestly appropriating or misusing funds or assets that have been entrusted to someone’s care, typically within the context of an employer-employee relationship. It is a white-collar crime that can involve sophisticated methods to conceal the theft over extended periods.

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Federal indictments

A federal indictment is one of the last steps before your case reaches the federal courts. They are formal charges issued by a federal grand jury after reviewing evidence presented by a prosecutor.

It indicates that the jury believes there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. An indictment doesn’t prove guilt but starts the criminal prosecution process.

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Broadly, fraud is a deliberate act of deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. Fraudulent activities can span various sectors, from finance to healthcare, and can involve schemes like Ponzi schemes, insurance fraud, or false advertising.

When fraud crosses state laws, involves the internet or includes a federal agency like the Postal Service, it becomes a federal crime.

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Identity theft

Identity theft is the deliberate use of another individual’s personal and financial information without permission. This act can lead to unauthorized financial transactions, false loan applications or other fraudulent activities, often resulting in significant harm to the victim’s credit and financial standing.

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Internet crimes

Engaging in internet crimes like computer hacking, introducing malware or unauthorized access to a computer system can lead to federal charges.

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Often associated with organized crime, racketeering can involve activities like illegal gambling, bribery, money laundering and other unlawful practices. It’s often charged in conjunction with other crimes in cases of criminal conspiracies.

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Securities fraud

Securities fraud is a catchall term used to describe deceptive practices in the stock or commodities markets. This can involve misrepresenting information investors use to make decisions or manipulating market prices, leading to unfair gains or losses.

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Wire fraud

A fraudulent scheme to intentionally deprive another of property or honest services via mail or wire communication. It’s a federal offense and encompasses scams conducted over the phone, internet, or any networked communication method.

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How do I know if I’m under investigation for federal crimes?

In short, you don’t. Because of the complexity and seriousness of an investigation at the federal level, it often takes months or even years to prepare a case. Federal agents are thorough, meticulous and aggressive when building evidence for a case, and they investigate in secret.

If there is suspicion that you might be involved in a federal offense, it’s likely that agents have already begun gathering evidence to build a case against you. You likely won’t hear from federal investigators until they’ve already built up a solid case against you.

If your case results in charges, it means that the US Attorney’s office has an advantage over the defense team right off the bat. If you are a suspect or person of interest in a federal crime, it is crucial that you don’t wait to seek legal representation who can start preparing your defense. 

How do federal criminal charges differ from criminal offenses under California state law?

Many federal crimes involve illegal activity that crosses state lines, uses or involves the internet, or involves federal agencies such as federal banks or the US Postal Service. 

There are important differences in the ways that the investigation and litigation of federal crimes are handled. The United States Attorney’s Office and United States Department of Justice are responsible for prosecuting and trying federal cases and follow federal rule of criminal procedure. 

Federal judges have to follow sentencing guidelines and mandatory minimum sentences and don’t get to use much of their own discretion. The investigation and trial of a federal crime can be lengthy and intimidating.

What can you expect from a federal arrest and the court system?

Criminal cases handled by the federal court have a different judicial process than those handled by the state court.   

If the investigation by federal authorities yields enough evidence to make an arrest, the individual who is being charged will be brought into custody and interviewed by a pretrial services or court probation officer. 

The accused will then appear in court for an arraignment in front of a federal magistrate judge. The judge will decide whether or not the defendant will be released to await trial and can also set conditions of the release or set bail. The result of the arraignment depends on the specific details of the case. The judge will consider information gathered during the pretrial interview, the nature of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and any other relevant information in making the decision. 

Federal criminal cases in Los Angeles and surrounding counties are handled by prosecutors at the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. If federal prosecutors believe that there is enough evidence against the defendant, they will present the case to a grand jury who will decide if the case should go to trial. 

If the case moves to trial, the prosecution will file an indictment with the United States District Court. The defendant will then make additional court appearances where the defense team will acquire police reports or other relevant documents to the case. Whatever discovery documents or evidence that the defense receives will be used by the federal defense attorney to fight the charges placed against the defendant. 

The U.S. Attorney has to prove that the defendant is guilty of all elements of the crime in order to secure a conviction. Following a trial or plea bargain, the judge will sentence the defendant. While mandatory sentencing guidelines make it difficult to plea bargain in federal court, a skilled law firm may be able to present the case in a way that it is not subject to those guidelines. 

If the judge determines that federal sentencing guidelines need to be followed, the penalties will likely be much harsher than for a crime handled by the state court. 

How to handle federal interviews and target letters

One way that many people find that they are involved in a federal investigation is if they are are directly contacted by federal agents.

Let’s say you’re at home one morning, minding your own business, when you hear a knock. There are two men at the door who identify themselves as FBI agents. They casually ask you to talk with them. It could be about you, or it could be about a situation that happened to someone else, years ago. What do you do?

The best course of action is to calmly inform them that you are happy to consent to their interview, but only after speaking with your attorney first.

At this point, many federal investigators try to play hardball. They might ask you what you’re hiding, or why you have to speak with an attorney beforehand. The truth is that you are fully within your constitutional rights to do this, and it can save you from headaches that might arise if you misspeak or misremember a fact during the interview.

Another way that people find they are involved in a federal investigation is if they receive what is known as a “target letter.”

A target letter is a notice from either a federal prosecutor or the U.S. Department of Justice that you are the target of a criminal investigation.

Target letters contain information on the crime being investigated and what the federal government expects you to do next. This will usually take the form of appearing in front of a grand jury, or meeting directly with a prosecutor.

If you receive a letter from the federal government notifying you that you are a witness, subject or target in a criminal investigation, the best first move is to speak with an attorney. Remember, a target letter is not an indictment, but it could be a sign that you could be indicted soon. Your attorney will carefully review the details of your case and advise you on the best course of action.

Why do you need a federal criminal defense lawyer?

Federal charges are very serious, and a conviction could have a devastating impact on the rest of your life. It is crucial that you hire a criminal defense law firm who can dedicate their time and expertise to your unique case and who understands the ins and outs of not only federal law, but also federal court procedures and guidelines. 

Because the federal government has basically unlimited resources and sophisticated technology to collect evidence against you, you need to have an aggressive defense strategy. A highly skilled federal defense attorney will customize your defense strategy to the details of your case. The sooner your attorney can begin researching the evidence against you and determining the best way to fight your charges the better. If you are in need of a federal criminal defense attorney, don’t wait, contact our law offices today. 

Defenses against your federal charges

The Law Offices of Robert M. Helfend provides nationwide defense against all types of federal charges. Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Helfend has been recognized for his work in the courtroom by SuperLawyers, Lead Counsel and the National Trial Lawyers Top 100.

Trained at Pepperdine Law, Mr. Helfend has practiced criminal defense exclusively since 1984 and has won favorable judgments for thousands of clients in that time.

If you are facing charges for any type of federal crime, we can provide you with the care, attention, and aggressive defense that you will need in order to get through the difficult federal judicial process. Contact us today for a free initial consultation and let us get to work defending your rights and fighting for your future – 800-834-6434.

– Published January 22, 2013. Last Updated September 22, 2023.

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