Nobody expects agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to show up at their office, but it happens – and it’s automatically concerning.
Even if you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong, you could be an unknowing partner in anything from money laundering to Medicare fraud (depending on where you work), and the next moves you make could be critical to your future. Here are some tips that can help:
Find out if they have a warrant
If the agents have a warrant in hand, you have to let them do whatever the warrant allows. If they don’t, you aren’t required to let them look at anything or talk to anybody – and that’s probably the wisest move.
Decide if you are going to answer any questions at all
Your right against self-incrimination is absolute, so you are under no legal obligation to answer any questions without your attorney’s presence and guidance. It’s generally best to take that approach – but do so politely. Simply state that you’re uncomfortable talking without legal representation and stop talking.
If you do answer any questions, don’t lie (even a little)
Lying to a federal agent is its own crime. You may recall that style icon Martha Stewart went to jail after an insider trading scandal, but you may not realize that she was actually convicted of lying to federal investigators and conspiracy to obstruct justice. That’s just one example of how you can end up in serious trouble even if you didn’t initially commit a crime.
It’s also important to realize that expressions of uncertainty, like, “I don’t know,” can be misinterpreted as a lie. You may simply be so panicked that you really can’t recall what you’re being asked right then, but the FBI may decide you’re trying to impede their investigation.
Regardless of the circumstances, any FBI investigation means that trouble is in the air – and you need to take steps to protect yourself.