In a federal criminal case in Texas, a coverup might be worse than the crime. Even if the defendant has not committed an underlying crime, they can get themselves in legal jeopardy when they make a false statement to federal officials. This can result in a felony conviction and jail time.
People remember the famous prosecution of Martha Stewart after she was accused of trading on insider information. However, the crime that she was ultimately convicted of was making false statements to federal investigators, which resulted in five months of prison time. Federal law prohibits false statements and filings. It is viewed as interfering with the operation of the criminal process. When the government ultimately does not have the necessary evidence to prosecute for the underlying crime that it is investigating, prosecutors could end up filing false statement charges.
In order to be a criminal offense, the defendant must have willfully and knowingly made a false statement. In other words, one cannot negligently or accidentally lie. The statement must have been material to the government business. This crime can lead to up to five years of prison time and a $250,000 fine. False statements can be made on applications or even when testifying in front of Congress. It is a very broad statute that gives the government wide powers to prosecute criminal defendants.
Making false statements is a white-collar crime that can end up having serious ramifications. A person who is contacted by law enforcement investigating this possible charge may want to immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. Federal prosecutors can be relentless when it comes to these “process” crimes, and defendants need legal representation to help them deal with the prosecutors. An attorney may be able to convince the United States Attorney to drop or reduce the charges.