The Target Letter and Proffer
What is a target letter? A target letter is a letter one would receive from a United States Attorney stating that you are the “target” of a federal criminal investigation; that you are the subject of a criminal investigation. The letter seeks your cooperation or assistance to come in and proffer. The target letter and proffer request identifies in a very broad sense what area of the federal crimes code the investigation is based and seeks your cooperation.
Prior to receiving the target letter and proffer, an agent of the investigating agency, F.B.I., A.T.F., D.E.A., Medicare and Medicaid, I.R.S., and/or D.H.S. will have already contacted you. The investigators are very tricky. They show up in pairs at houses unannounced, at either early morning or late afternoon hours, and ask permission to come into your house to talk. It is here and now that you need an attorney. Tell the investigator that you would like to cooperate, but need to first hire an attorney. You need not actually cooperate at this time or any time in the future if that is the decision.
Once you have been contacted by the case agent, you need to hire counsel. The first matter of business is to discuss the factual basis for the criminal investigation and whether counsel should reach out to the investigating officer and/or the supervising United State Attorney or not. Any contact you, the potential target or subject of a criminal investigation, has with the investigator is recorded and will be used later. Statements denying involvement may be the basis for other charges of obstruction or lying to the criminal investigator. (This is what happened to Martha Stewart. She thought she was smarter than the investigator.)
If you choose to not cooperate, sometime in the future, you may receive that Target Letter and Proffer Request. Obviously the investigation has proceeded and you have been implicated by other people in the commission of a crime. You can choose now to cooperate, show up for an interview or “proffer”, and help in the investigation, or not.
It is during the proffer or interview with the case agent and a United States Attorney that you, through counsel, seek to accept responsibility, mitigate to reduce the types of charges to be filed, and reduce any potential offense level score in the sentencing scheme. All of these goals will be reached, depending on the decisions you and counsel make after that first contact by the case agent and/or receipt of the Target Letter and Proffer request.
Your case can travel down either of two roads. The first road is no contact with the officer, wait for the grand jury indictment, then fight the case.