In white-collar crime investigations, a target letter is sent by a federal prosecutor to inform someone that they are being investigated for a federal offense.

These investigations begin when suspicious activity or evidence of wrongdoing is reported. Federal law enforcement agencies get involved, and after months or even years, a Grand Jury investigation begins. Then the target letters go out.

Most letters advise the recipient of what the charges are (e.g. mail fraud, insider trading). They are used during the pre-indictment phase of the investigation, but if you receive one, it essentially means that the prosecutor has enough evidence to indict you and you need to call an attorney immediately.

Target letter format

Target letters typically advise the recipient of the following facts:

  • That they will be asked to testify and answer questions as well as produce requested records and documents
  • The charges being investigated
  • The fact that they are “a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation”
  • That anything they do or say may be used against them in a future proceeding
  • That they are permitted to confer with counsel

What a target letter means

A target letter puts you on notice that you are suspected of having committed a white-collar crime. It has been sent only because enough evidence has been collected to tie you to the offense. You will typically be required to appear before the Grand Jury at the stated date and time.

If you receive a target letter

The first thing you need to do is retain the services of an attorney who specializes in white-collar defense, as defending these allegations requires a certain level of expertise in white-collar investigations.

Provide the attorney with a copy of the letter, which will help him or her determine if there are opportunities to avoid federal prosecution. If there has been a misunderstanding, the attorney can contact the prosecutor assigned to your case and clear up the matter. Even if no misunderstanding is involved, he or she can work out a favorable deal before any indictment is handed down.

Even if you are indicted as the result of your Grand Jury appearance, your attorney will safeguard your rights during the subsequent proceedings and work to get you the best deal. If you or a loved one have received a target letter, we can assist. Please contact us today for more information.