Theodore P. Watson, Esq. If you are a federal government contractor or individual facing potential federal criminal charges in a case involving federal contracts, you may have already received a target letter from the DOJ’s office, or some other federal law enforcement office. This is to be taken seriously and you should not waste time hiring a criminal defense attorney that has experience in federal procurement law. In other situations, you may receive a notice of indictment. What is the difference between a target letter vs. an indictment? The general answer is that one is more of a formal notice of charges against you.
What is a target letter?
A target letter issued to a government employee, contractor or some other defendant in a government procurement fraud investigation is more the method where the federal government informs you that the government believes that you have committed a crime. Some people may receive a target letter in the mail, or it may arrive at your office or home after federal investigators have tried to contact you.
Simply because federal contractors receive a target letter does not mean that you are charged or guilty of a crime. In some situations, the government later may drop its focus on you or your company. When you receive a target letter, it can be a strong sign that criminal charges may be coming in the near future. The target letter makes potential defendants aware of likely criminal charges in the future.
Federal prosecutors use target letters in white collar crime cases involving federal government contracts. It usually means that you are under investigation. The target letter does not give you details about how the investigation started if there was a whistleblower involved. See information about how to deal with government investigations.
How does the DOJ define a Target of Investigation?
The Department of Justice’s manual defines a target of an investigation as “a person is a target where the prosecutor or Grand Jury has substantial evidence linking him to the commission of a crime.” See information about Signs of being under federal investigation.
Does the Government have to Provide You with a Target Letter?
Although it is a courtesy, and usually done in most cases involving federal contractors, the government does not always have to provide you with a target letter. If you have a government contractor fraud defense attorney already on your team, there may be a possibility that he or she can solicit the information from the AUSA (US Attorneys). Many federal prosecutors do not want to scare the defendant away or ‘tip their hand.’ However, in most white-collar crimes involving federal government contractors, a target letter is issued.
What Should You do if You Receive a Target Letter?
Immediately after receiving a target letter, you should immediately hire a federal criminal defense attorney. You want to retain defense counsel that has experience in federal government contracts and the issues presented in the allegations against you. See also information about proffers.
Indicted Meaning – What is an Indictment of Government Contractors?
After the prosecutor studies the information from investigators and the information they gather from talking with the individuals involved, the prosecutor decides whether to present the case to the grand jury. If you are indicted, you are given formal notice that the government actually believes that you have committed a crime. The indictment contains the basic information that informs the person of the charges against them.
After studying the evidence presented in the investigation, the government attorney then has to decide whether or not to present the case before a federal grand jury to bound the case over for a formal trial.
Compared a target letter to federal contractors, a federal indictment gives you formal notice that the prosecutor believes that you have committed a crime. Common crimes where contractors are indicted in government contract fraud cases include major fraud against the government; conspiracy to commit fraud against the government, government contract fraud involving small business procurement violations, and other allegations such as false claims violations and more. In sum, a federal indictment is the critical stage in the government’s investigation where it has to constitutionally notify you that formal charges are brought against you. By meeting the definition of indictment, the notice includes very basic information that gives you an idea of what you are charged with (various counts are listed in the Indictment). See What Happens After Government Contractors Receive a Grand Jury Indictment.
A grand jury listens to evidence presented and then votes in secret on whether they believe that the prosecutor has put forth enough evidence to bring federal charges against you (this is the indictment stage.) Grand jury indictments are usually for federal felony cases. See information about getting federal indictments dismissed.
Get Professional Help from Our Defense Lawyers if You Have Given a Target Letter or Facing Indictment
If you are a federal government contractor, employee, or individual that has been served with a target letter or notice of indictment, call our government contractor defense attorneys immediately for a free and confidential initial consultation. Call toll-free at 1.866.601.5518.