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False Statements

Federal False Statements – 18 U.S.C. § 1001

The federal government has a variety of ways they can prosecute somebody for making a false statement. In federal criminal cases, a prosecutor can charge you with a false statement offense because it provides them with leverage. In other words, a federal prosecutor will frequently use the False Statement Accountability Act to charge, or makes threats to criminally charge, any person who doesn't cooperate with a government investigation.

The most common false statements charge is 18 U.S.C. § 1001, which makes it a federal crime to make a false statement or conceal anything from a federal investigator that is part of the legislature, judicial branch, or any executive branch agency.

This means if an FBI agent conducts an interview, and you tell them false information, it's a federal offense in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Additionally, if you provide testimony before Congress and knowing give them false information under oath, you could be prosecuted for making false statements.

This statute also covers making false statements to from the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Postal Inspectors, agents in an Office of Inspector General, among others.

The branches of the federal government often conduct hearing or investigations in whether people make statements both orally and in writing.

In other words, when someone knowingly falsify statements, engage in a cover-up, or make an attempt to commit a fraud on the government using false statements, they could face criminal prosecution for the federal crime of False Statements defined under 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

The false statements must be made knowingly and willfully and exempts false statements that were made in good faith or made accidentally.

To give readers a better understanding of a false statement crime, our federal criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Types of Federal False Statements

A “false statement” could be a material omission, misrepresentation, or use of a fraudulent document.  You must make the statement “knowingly and willfully,” with intent to deceive the government agent.

18 U.S.C. § 1001 describes the types of false statements covered under the statute. For example, any conduct that attempts to falsify, conceal, or cover up, scheme, or device a material fact related to a government matter.

Thus, it's clear that any facts which are not material, which means tangential, or not important to the outcome of the proceeding, even in a situation where it could be proved false or a cover-up, would not normally be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

Next is making of any materially false, fictitious, fraudulent statement, or a representation.  This word “material” appears in the statute to make clear that unimportant errors won't be prosecuted.

The final category covers making or using of any false writing or document when you know they contain materially false, fictitious, or a fraudulent statement or entry. 

This is very similar conduct as the other category above, but only the statement is made in a written document, rather than a live interview or testimony. 18 U.S.C. 1004 defines the crime of fraudulent certification of checks.

Hypothetical Example of a Federal False Statement Offense

We will use a simple hypothetical situation to show what is prohibited under 18 U.S.C. § 1001. Let's say there is a defendant who is a witness in an administrative procedure within an executive branch agency.

They know their business could significantly benefit if the agency decides to take a specific action regarding regulations. The defendant knows going in they will be questioned on the witness stand about a certain important fact associated with their business.

They also know the agency in question will most likely deny the action they are seeking if they become aware of the important fact. Thus, in order to make sure they benefit financially, they prepare in advance a false ledger on their business letterhead and ask his attorney to enter it as an exhibit.

Additionally, when they are questioned under oath, the defendant knowingly lies and pretends the exhibit contains factual information.  In this scenario, the defendant could face two criminal counts under 18 U.S.C. 1001. The first for knowingly submitting a false document, and the other count for knowingly making a false statement orally in their testimony.

Are There False Statement Exceptions?

Yes. 18 U.S.C. 1001 has several important exceptions. One exception is that it doesn't apply to any party in judicial proceedings, or their lawyers. This doesn't mean that knowingly giving false information in a judicial proceeding is legal, or that it can't result in criminal penalties. However, this type of conduct is covered by different federal statutes.

Another exception is related to matters before the legislative branch – the Congress of the United States. 18 U.S.C. 1001 False Claims law only applies administrative matters, like claims a claim for payment, procurement, and employment issues, and importantly to an investigation that are conducted by committees and subcommittees of the Congress or Senate.  Thus, a false claims made during Congressional testimony has the potential to be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. § 1001.

Defenses for False Statements Charges Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001

False statements that are described under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 is a serious federal crime that carries a maximum of five-year federal prison sentence if convicted.

It should be noted there are certain enhancements that could increase the penalty to eight years in prison. For example, if there was any connection to international or domestic terrorism.

If you are under investigation, or already indicted for the federal offense of False Statements that are described under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, contact our federal criminal defense lawyers to review the details and options.

Our law firm could intervene before any court proceedings begin in an effort to reduce the chances of a criminal filing. If your case proceeds to court, we are skilled negotiators and might be able to work out a resolution with the federal prosecutor for best possible outcome before the formal court process begins.

We might be able to make a reasonable argument that you didn't know the statement was false, or that your statement was not material or relevant enough to be considered “material” to a federal matter.

If a satisfactory resolution can't be negotiated with the prosecutor, we can represent at a federal jury trial where the government has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Eisner Gorin LLP is a nationally recognized criminal defense law firm located at 1875 Century Park E #705, Los Angeles, CA 90067.  Contact us for a consultation at 877-781-1570.

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