Federal Criminal Conspiracy Charges for Government Contractors - Beware of 18 USC 371As a government contractor doing business with the federal government, federal law enforcement authorities may charge you with a criminal conspiracy charge where the main focus is on another contractor or your subcontractor. This is no fun. However, it must be dealt with. Unfortunately, this is how government prosecutors keep you within their grip despite knowing that you may have really done nothing wrong. 

The main federal conspiracy statute is 18 USC 371. The thrust of the statute states that there is a conspiracy against the United States when two or more people conspire to commit an act that is a crime under the U.S. Code.

Where government contractors find themselves in a criminal case is when the prosecutor charges the company or CEO with the crime of conspiring to defraud the United States under one or more contracts. This charge is often seen in SBA 8(a) small business fraud cases, SDVOSB fraud, and others.

The idea is that the government attorneys often find that a co-conspirator will volunteer to give information against the other defendant in exchange for. a lower sentence or getting dismissed from the case. A common ploy in a government contracting fraud case is to bring a federal conspiracy charge on anyone that may be remotely involved with the target of the investigation.

If you are involved in a conspiracy charge in a government contractor fraud case, you want to be absolutely careful when making deals with federal prosecutors. Consider consulting with an experienced federal defense lawyer that also understands government procurement laws.

More on the conspiracy charge

The crime of conspiracy is not complete unless one of the co-defendants takes an overt act to further the conspiracy. A conspiracy is an agreement to commit a crime between two or more people to commit an act. Defending a federal conspiracy charge as a government contractor would mean disproving that that was any agreement.  Whether or not the crime was completed is irrelevant to be charged with conspiracy.  18 USC 371 requires a participant to take overt action to form a conspiracy.

Conspiracy Overt act requirement: Federal conspiracy statutes require that at least one of the two or more co-conspirators do some overt act to effect, further, or accomplish the underlying crime. For government contractors, it may be to get an invoice paid or to win a government bid. When an overt act is a requirement, then an agreement by itself is not enough. When one of the parties performs the overt act, then all co-conspirators become guilty of the conspiracy crime.

How to Defend Government Contractor Conspiracy Charges?

Every criminal case or conspiracy charge in white-collar criminal cases requires proving the elements beyond a reasonable doubt.  As government contractor defense attorneys, our team would have to assess all of the facts in the prosecution’s evidence to then create reasonable doubt. There is no mathematical formula to defend against a federal conspiracy charge.  If you are charged as a co-conspirator, the prosecution will have to first prove that you have “conspired” or “agreed to” accomplish a crime. Furthermore, simply talking about a potential crime is not enough without agreement on its accomplishment. The agreement must also be to accomplish the criminal object, such as getting paid on a fraudulent invoice or installing substandard equipment or materials. Innocent ventures do not meet a conspiracy charge. DOJ and other federal prosecutors must, under the general federal conspiracy statute 18 USC 371, prove an overt act furthering the goal. See Tips on Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney to Handle Your Government Contracts Case.

Federal Conspiracy Penalties?

A federal conspiracy charge formulates the penalty. What is the object of the conspiracy and how serious was it?  Conspiracy penalties for committing a crime against the United States drive a prison sentence of no more than five years. 18 USC Section  371 also says that the court can also issue a fine in addition to giving jail time.

What Are Your Rights When You Get a Criminal Conspiracy Charge as Government Contractor? 

Every person has a right to remain silent and have an attorney present during government questioning or investigation. Did they issue you Miranda warnings? You have a right to speak with an attorney and not incriminate yourself. Many federal contractors make the mistake of speaking to federal law enforcement and then contacting a government contractor fraud attorney. Sometimes, the damage may already be done.

If you are facing a federal conspiracy charge as a government contractor or employee, call our federal contractor criminal defense attorneys at 1.866.601.5518.