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Back to Basics | What is a Target Letter?

In the federal criminal justice system, a target letter is a written notification sent by the U.S. Attorney’s office to someone informing them that they are the target of a criminal investigation.

The letter is usually sent after prosecutors have gathered enough evidence to believe that the target has committed a federal crime. The letter will generally provide some information about the crime being investigated, such as a citation to the federal criminal code. The letter also may request that the recipient provide information or documents relevant to the investigation.

A target letter should not be confused with a grand jury subpoena. Compliance with a federal subpoena is mandatory unless excused by a federal judge. On the other hand, the recipient of a target letter is not legally required to take any action, although ignoring the letter is a huge mistake.

A federal target letter can be sent in relation to a wide range of white collar federal crimes including, but not limited to:

  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Money laundering
  • Cybercrime
  • Securities violations
  • Public corruption
  • Environmental crimes

In short, receiving a target letter means that the recipient is facing potential criminal charges, and it is important to seek the advice of a qualified attorney to navigate the legal process and protect their rights.

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