Federal False Statements Offenses

18 U.S.C. § 1001

One of the most potent weapons Federal prosecutors have at their disposal is 18 U.S.C. § 1001, a criminal statute aimed at penalizing those who knowingly and willfully make false or misleading statements or conceal information from the government, specifically, federal investigators. However, the law does not criminally punish those who give investigators false or misleading information mistakenly or in good faith. Those convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 include Martha Stewart, Michael Flynn, Jeffrey Skilling, and Bernie Madoff.

What is a "False Statement?"

While the law is silent about what constitutes a "false statement," it can come in various forms:

  1. It is crucial to note that the statement does not have to be written; it can also be an oral statement.
  2. A false statement is usually a material omission or misrepresentation. Something is "material" either when it (1) helped the accused carry out their criminal activity or (2) tricked or deceived a target of the fraud into believing the accused. For example, telling the FBI that you are 45 years old when you are really 50 is probably not material; however, lying about your participation in an event probably is material.
  3. Under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, one who makes a false statement in any matter within the executive, legislative, or judicial branches' control faces criminal liability. This means that anytime you talk with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), or Secret Service you are subject to these false statement laws.
What is the Difference between "Willfully" and "Knowingly?"

Despite the criminal law not giving an explicit definition of "willfully," courts have found it to mean something done voluntarily and intentionally with specific intent. Similarly, "knowingly" merely requires that the defendant acted with knowledge of the falsity.

18 U.S.C. § 1035 - False statements relating to health care matters

Similar to 18 U.S.C. § 1001, this provision makes it a crime for one to knowingly and willfully make a false statement in any matter involving a health care benefit program. These programs include Medicare and Medicaid, Tricare, and Veteran's Administration (VA) benefits. Thus, one can potentially run into criminal liability under this provision if they misrepresent their age, health, or eligibility for the program. If convicted, they can face imprisonment of up to five years, a fine, or both.

18 U.S.C. § 1621 – Perjury generally

This statute makes it a crime for anyone to willfully make false statements while under oath before a federal tribunal or officer. One need not be in a courtroom testifying to face a perjury charge; alternatively, the statute applies to those who make false statements to federal agents. Those convicted of perjury under 18 U.S.C. § 1621 face upwards of 5 years in federal prison. It is also important to mention 18 U.S.C. § 1623, a similar perjury statute. There are two significant differences between § 1621 and § 1623. The latter applies to false statements before a grand jury or court. Instead of a willfulness standard, the rule requires the defendant to "knowingly" make a false statement. Upon conviction of 18 U.S.C. § 1623, one faces a prison term of up to five years, a fine, or both.

18 U.S.C. § 287

While on the topic of Federal false statement offenses, it is important to highlight 18 U.S.C. § 287, False, fictitious or fraudulent claims because it serves as an additional charge that Federal prosecutors can bring against those looking to do business with the government or seek benefits.

18 U.S.C. § 287 makes it a federal crime for one who knowingly submits false claims to the government. Such an offense carries with it a possible five-year term of imprisonment and a fine. Over time, the Act's reach has broadened to more than just contracts for the sale of goods. Nowadays, it also applies to applications for government benefits, like Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.

Elements of 18 U.S.C. § 287

For Federal prosecutors to convict someone of violating 18 U.S.C. § 287, they must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant:

  1. Made or presented a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim to a department of the United States;
  2. Knew such claim was false, fictitious, or fraudulent; and
  3. Did so with the specific intent to violate the law or with a consciousness that what he was doing was wrong.

Circuit Courts are split over whether 18 U.S.C. § 287 requires the statement or claim to be "material." Nevertheless, it is helpful to define what "material" means. Something is "material" either when it (1) helped the accused carry out their criminal activity or (2) trick or deceive a target of the fraud into believing the accused. It is essential to note that the prosecutors don't have to show that the defendant intended to defraud. There is also debate over whether the government has to prove intent.

Importance of Legal Counsel

A perjury conviction comes with significant consequences. Not only does one run the risk of spending time in federal prison and having to pay steep penalties, but the stigma of "convicted felon" affects one's livelihood for years to come. Hence, it is essential to have legal counsel by their side before speaking with an investigator, court, or other governmental body. An experienced attorney can help guide you through the process, protect your rights, and ensure that your answers are truthful.

No matter what stage of the criminal process you find yourself in––receipt of a subpoena or search warrant, or if you find yourself a target of an investigation––you must have legal representation. Peter Katz is a skilled former federal and state prosecutor who knows the inner workings of the criminal justice system. Having Peter on your side will put you at ease because he will fight for you and work tirelessly to clear your name. Call the Law Offices of Peter Katz at (609) 734-4380 or online to begin preparing your defense today.