I Received a Target Letter And It’s Not About Shopping… What Now?

by MayberryLawFirm on March 12, 2014

I can’t imagine very much is more terrifying for someone than receiving a letter from a United States Attorney’s Office letting them know they are under the microscope of the Federal government for suspicion of a crime.  Quite frankly, even as a Federal criminal attorney when I hear of this happening there is an element of dread and sickness for the person receiving such letter.  If you receive one of these dreaded letters, crap has hit the fan and life as you know it could be over.

Target Letters are issued as a part of a Federal white collar criminal investigation, generally associated with some type of wire fraud, tax fraud, or other type of fraudulent theft.  Where as with a “blue collar crime,” such as drug trafficking the suspect has no clue they are being investigated, with white collar crime the individual is often notified that they are suspected of wrong doing.  Simply put, the Feds believe the recipient of the Target Letter is in some capacity involved in perpetuating a white collar crime.  In other words, they have been deemed a “target” of an investigation.  In my experience, those that receive a letter of this nature are at serious risk of being indicted in a Federal criminal court, though it is not a foregone conclusion that this will happen.  Depending on the individual’s role in the alleged crime, how much they may be willing to cooperate, and the proper handling of this situation by an experienced attorney, the recipient could possibly aid in the investigation to the extent that he or she could be reclassified as merely a cooperating witness, thereby avoiding a dreaded Federal criminal charge or a reduced version.

In my opinion, it is never ok to speak with others about a Target Letter without first consulting with a white collar criminal lawyer.  You never want to give information to someone else that could undercut what you know and there is always a possibility of the Government accusing you of obstructing justice in some capacity, regardless of your intention.  Depending on the facts of the situation, it may be best to actually sit down with the Feds, with your attorney of course, and cooperate in their investigation.  Unless the Feds have insufficient evidence (could happen but probably not likely) to prosecute you, this is very likely your only shot at getting the best bang for your buck in the form of leniency.  Having a good attorney in your corner could aid in getting the bones of a great deal in place for you, whether that be a slap on the wrist prison sentence, Federal probation, or possibly even Federal Pretrial Diversion.   Again, there is always the possibility of the Feds not actually having enough evidence to prosecute.  If this is the case, your agreement to sit down with them may be the nail in the coffin.  An experienced and high quality Federal attorney will know or will at the least be familiar with their local Assistant United States Attorneys and will have a very good idea whether the Feds are bluffing or not.  This is invaluable in helping to make a decision on how to proceed.

Though there can be variations of what a Target Letter looks like, below is the standard language.

“This letter is supplied to a witness scheduled to appear before the federal Grand Jury in order to provide helpful background information about the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury consists of from sixteen to twenty-three persons from the District of ___. It is their responsibility to inquire into federal crimes which may have been committed in this District.

As a Grand Jury witness you will be asked to testify and answer questions, and to produce records and documents. Only the members of the Grand Jury, attorneys for the United States and a stenographer are permitted in the Grand Jury room while you testify.

We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to *. You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice.

You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding. If you have retained counsel, who represents you personally, the Grand Jury will permit you a reasonable opportunity to step outside the Grand Jury room and confer with counsel if you desire.


If you’ve received a target letter, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Federal criminal attorney as soon as possible.

Jason Mayberry is a Federal criminal attorney and State criminal attorney practicing throughout the United States in Federal Court and in Florida and Tennessee.



Jason Mayberry is the founding partner of the Mayberry Law Firm. The Mayberry Law Firm practices in the areas of State and Federal criminal defense, DUI, personal injury, and medical malpractice in Florida and Tennessee.

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