False Statement Federal Crimes

It's safe to say that the United States Government does not like to be lied to. There are many federal laws that criminalize false statements in a wide range of contexts, with penalties ranging from up to one year in jail to up to 30 years and fines ranging from $100,000 to up to $1 million.

The “Catch-All” Federal False Statement Statute

The “catch-all” statute prohibiting making false statements to the government is 18 U.S.C. §1001, which makes it a misdemeanor to make any false statement “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch” of the federal government. The penalty for violating section 1001 is up to five years in prison (up to 8 years under certain circumstances) and a fine of up to $250,000.

Section 1001 also prohibits other types of behavior that may not seem to exactly qualify as a false statement; for example, falsifying, concealing, or covering up “by trick” a “material fact,” or making or using a “false writing or document,” all when dealing with the federal government.

The law requires that the false statement be made “knowingly and willfully;” in other words, for the government to prove you violated section 1001, it needs to prove that you made a false statement knowing it was false and that, with that knowledge, you went ahead and made it anyway. This “intent” element is a common requirement of a number of the false statement statutes, and it's an important one because many of us rely on the truthfulness or accuracy of information we receive from others and regularly pass that information along in the course of our personal and business lives without bothering to check it.

Other Federal False Statement Statutes

Section 1001, the “catch-all” statute, does not apply where there is another more specific statute that fits the facts of a particular false statement situation. For example:

  • Section 1002 prohibits the knowing use of a forged or counterfeit document with the intent to defraud the government of any amount of money; the penalty is up to a $250,000 fine and up to five years in prison;
  • Section 1005, among other things, makes it a crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million for an employee of a wide range of banks to make “any false entry” in the bank's books, again “with the intent to injure or defraud such bank”; section 1006 punishes the same types of acts, but when committed against other types of financial institutions such as credit unions, federal home loan banks, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation, and others.
  • Section 1014 is a very broad statute that makes it a crime to intentionally make false statements to a wide range of federally insured and operated financial institutions for the purpose of securing or modifying a loan or applying for insurance, among other things. The penalty for a conviction is a fine of up to $1 million and a prison term of up to 30 years.
  • Section 1015 moves away from financially-related crimes and punishes a number of types of knowingly false statements made in connection with various aspects of the naturalization, citizenship, or registry of aliens processes. The punishment for violating section 1015 is a fine of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for up to five years.
  • Anyone authorized to administer oaths who knowingly and falsely certifies that someone appeared before them and took an oath in connection with various matters related to the federal government can be punished under section 1016 with a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison term of up to two years.
  • Section 1020 punishes false statements knowingly made as to the “character, quality, quantity, or cost of the material used or to be used, or the quantity or quality of the work performed or to be performed” in connection with federal highway projects. Those convicted of doing so face a fine of up to $250,000 and a prison term of up to five years.
  • Section 1028 punishes the knowing, making, using, distributing, and possessing a fake I.D. appearing to have been issued by the federal government or one of the states for use in connection with “an event designated as a special event of national significance.” Punishments range from a fine of up to $100,000 and a prison term of up to one year to a fine of $250,000 and a prison term of up to 30 years.
  • Identity theft in connection with a range of fraudulent activities is punished under section 1028A by prison terms ranging from up to two years to up to five years; in addition, the court is prohibited from placing the defendant on probation; and in some cases, the court may not allow the defendant to serve their sentence for violating 1028A at the same time they are serving their sentence for other crimes.

There are other statutes that prohibit the creation and use of fraudulent “access devices” such as key cards, access codes, card numbers, personal identification numbers, and the like (section 1029); knowingly and fraudulently hacking into computers that contain a wide variety of confidential or restricted government information (section 1030); knowingly making false statements in connection with the “delivery of or payment for health care benefits” (section 1035); and gaining entry to a federally-owned property, vessels, or aircraft, or secure areas of any airport or seaport “by any fraud or false pretense” (section 1036).

Intent is Key in These Cases

Note that almost all of these crimes require the defendant to have made the false statement “knowingly” or “willingly” or some other adjective that means that the crime must have been committed on purpose, not by mistake. The fact of the matter is that most businesses are built on a certain level of trust; otherwise, we would all spend our days double-checking what we were told by friends, colleagues, and business associates. But another fact is that people make mistakes all the time, despite their best efforts not to do so. Bookkeepers make mistakes when they enter income and expenses; auditors make mistakes when they fail to find the mistakes of the bookkeepers; executives make mistakes when they fail to recognize the mistakes made by the auditors.

As a result, it's not unusual for prosecutors to charge people who made honest mistakes with committing crimes that have an intent element, like the ones described here. Intent can often be very difficult to prove, however, particularly where the false statement was made by someone who genuinely believed it to be true.

LLF Law Firm Can Help

If you're being investigated in connection with false statements made to the government or have been charged for making them, you need the help of a skilled attorney who understands this area of the law and who can help defend you against the charges. Our team has the experience and the knowledge to defend you when the federal government is out to get you. We understand how the law works, how prosecutors think, and what kind of evidence the court will accept in federal criminal trials. The sooner you reach out to the LLF Law Firm team, the better your chances are of resolving these problems in a favorable way. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or reach out online through the LLF Law Firm contact form.

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The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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