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Federal conspiracy statutes make it a crime for anyone to conspire with another person to commit a crime. Conspiracy charges can be prosecuted in either state or federal court. In a conspiracy case, the criminal defense attorney often is contesting whether the conspiracy existed and whether the person accused was a member of that conspiracy.
Minor participants often become caught up in the investigation. Hiring an attorney at the earliest stage of the investigation, especially for federal charges of conspiracy in white collar crime or fraud cases, often leads to the best result. Never talk to any federal agent about the facts of the case or your involvement in a conspiracy to commit any state or federal offense. First seek out the advice of a criminal defense attorney.
If you are being investigated or have been charged with a federal conspiracy crime, contact an experienced conspiracy defense lawyer at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr. Each of the four attorneys at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr have significant experience in federal court fighting conspiracy charges at every stage of the case.
We are dedicated to getting the best possible results for our clients, and we make sure their rights are represented throughout the process. We represent clients throughout Texas and the United States including the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. Call us today at 210-226-1463 to discuss your case.
The term “conspiracy” is defined under federal law as an agreement between two or more people to join together to accomplish some unlawful purpose. It has been described as a “partnership in crime” in which each member becomes the agent of every other member.
When a person is accused of conspiracy to commit an offense under 18 U.S.C. § 371 in federal court, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond all reasonable doubt:
One may become a member of a conspiracy without knowing all the details of the unlawful scheme or the identities of all the other alleged conspirators. If a defendant understands the unlawful nature of a plan or scheme and knowingly and intentionally joins in that plan or scheme on one occasion, that may constitute sufficient evidence to convict him for conspiracy even though the defendant had not participated before and even though the defendant played only a minor part.
Depending on the facts of the case, the government does not necessarily need to prove that the alleged conspirators entered into any formal agreement, nor that they directly stated between themselves all the details of the scheme. Likewise, it is not necessarily required that the government prove that all of the details of the scheme alleged in the indictment were actually agreed upon or carried out. Finally, the government does not necessarily need to prove that all of the persons alleged to have been members of the conspiracy were such, or that the alleged conspirators actually succeeded in accomplishing their unlawful objectives.
A conspiracy requires more than just the mere presence at the scene of an event, even if the person has knowledge that a crime is being committed. Likewise, the mere fact that certain persons may have associated with each other, and may have assembled together and discussed common aims and interests, does not necessarily establish proof of the existence of a conspiracy.
A person does not become a conspirator when the person has no knowledge of a conspiracy, but happens to act in a way which advances some purpose of a conspiracy. Defenses in the case often center around whether the person withdrew from the conspiracy.
Under the second clause of 18 U.S.C. § 371, it is a federal crime for anyone to conspire with another person to defraud the United States or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose. When a person is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, the charges usually involves an allegation of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of the Internal Revenue Service in the ascertainment, assessment or collection of income taxes due.
The word “defraud” is not limited to its ordinary meaning of cheating the government out of money or property. In many cases, it can include things like impairing, obstructing, defeating, or interfering with the lawful function of the government or one of its agencies by dishonest means.
The following elements of a Conspiracy to Defraud must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt:
In many conspiracy cases, the person accused of the crime will raise the affirmative defense of withdrawal from the conspiracy. The defendant has the burden of proving that he withdrew from the conspiracy by a preponderance of evidence. The fact that the defendant has raised this defense, however, does not relieve the government of its initial burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an unlawful agreement and that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily joined it.
Under this defense, the defendant makes a substantial showing that he took some affirmative step to terminate or abandon participating in the conspiracy. The defense essentially requires the defendant to demonstrate some type of affirmative action to disavow or defeat the purpose of the conspiracy.
Under this defense, a partial or temporary withdrawal is not sufficient. Instead, the defense of withdrawal requires the defendant to make a complete withdrawal. Merely doing nothing or just avoiding contact with other members of the conspiracy is not enough. Examples of withdrawing from the conspiracy would include:
The prosecution will argue that a member of a conspiracy remains in the conspiracy unless he can show that at some point he completely withdrew from the conspiracy. The withdrawal defense in a conspiracy cases is commonly raised in the following types of cases:
All conspiracy charges are punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization. Additionally, conspiracy charges often form the basis for a forfeiture order or restitution order. Several different conspiracy statutes exist under federal laws that prohibit engaging in specific forms of prohibited conduct including:
If you are under investigation for any federal charges involving conspiring with another to commit a federal offense, such as white collar crime including bank fraud or tax fraud, or drug crimes such as conspiracy to distribute narcotics, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Goldstein, Goldstein, Hilley & Orr. Call 210-226-1463 today for a free consultation to discuss your case.