What we're talking about here are investigations before an arrest or indictment. These are often, but not always, white collar cases. White collar crime includes fraud of all varieties, tax, bribery, embezzlement, insider trading and other securities offense, cyber crimes, copyright infringement, money laundering, identity theft, and forgery cases. You can become aware of them several ways. Usually, it would be the execution of a search warrant at your home or business, a letter from the U.S. Attorney indicating that you are the target of a grand jury investigation, or contact from a law enforcement officer—usually a federal special agent. These cases require immediate action to protect your rights.
First, don't talk. No matter how nice or polite the agent is, they're asking questions for a reason—usually to put you in prison. What's more, even if you don't inculpate yourself of the offense under investigation, a false statement to a federal agent is a felony. That's what got Martha Stewart, Marion Jones, Michael Flynn, and others.
Second, you must hire a lawyer. Whether it's us or someone else, you MUST hire a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer protects you from any further questioning by law enforcement; if you have a lawyer, they can't question you. Period.
Third, you need to discover the purpose or aim of the investigation. This helps you begin to understand the potential exposure you have, begin to defend the case by finding and organizing relevant materials (cases handled this way are usually document intensive and often involve allegations spanning multiple years), and evaluate options.
While the consequences of these investigations can be quite dire, the nature of their handling does have some advantages to the potential defendant. As long as you aren't indicted, there are options. As Winston Churchill said, "To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war." These cases offer much opportunity to demonstrate to law enforcement and the prosecuting attorneys (who may or may not be involved at the outset) that you aren't culpable or that the case is so weak as to be unwinnable. If there is exposure, there's much time to evaluate cooperating with the government and/or negotiate a favorable plea bargain.
If you become aware of an investigation, invoke your right to counsel and call us immediately.