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To Be Safe Record Any Meeting with the FBI

Recently, a bank officer friend of mine received an unannounced visit from two FBI agents in connection with an investigation about a bank failure. Should my friend have waited until he had legal counsel before he talked to the agents or does that send the wrong signal?

To be on the safe side, and because you do not always know the objective of the FBI agents, you must assume when FBI agents come to visit you that they are not your friends or your protectors. Their job is very simple: to gather evidence which they may use against you or others in a criminal case.

They may tell you that you are only a witness, yet later through their investigation, they may change your status to that of "suspect" or "target." But if you already have consented to an interview of which there is no record, you may find yourself with one of several later problems.

First, you may not have remembered facts accurately and your inaccurate statements to the FBI could be viewed as false statements to a government agent, punishable by up to five years in the penitentiary and/or a $10,000 fine. You must assume when FBI agents come to visit you that they are not your friends or your protectors.

Second, you may have remembered facts accurately, but the agent wrote your answer down inaccurately in his report. Unless you sign or adopt a statement, you or your counsel normally will never get to see the agent's rendition of his interview, based on his noted with you, until the agent testifies in court. If there is an inaccuracy in his report, there is a danger of it becoming a "fact" solidified in the agent's memory through repeated discussions with others as well as his testifying to the grand jury. If the U.S. Attorney's Office also is relying on the accuracy of the agent's report, then it becomes more and more difficult to correct a mistake in the report because memories on the matter simply get distorted.

The author, Arch McColl, was voted "Best Crimininal Defense Attorney" by D Magazine.

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