Maryland Federal Public Corruption Lawyer
Certain activities or actions by elected and appointed government officials, government employees, and private sector individuals who attempt to influence them may result in accusations of federal public corruption. Among the most common public corruption charges prosecuted in federal court in Maryland are bribery, abuse of power, or misuse of public funds.
Misuse, or theft of public funds, can occur at any level, including federal, state, county, or municipal. The offense rises to the level of a federal crime if the stolen or misappropriated funds were federal funds. For example, if a senior member of a local police department redirects Department of Homeland Security funds for any purpose other than that which it was appropriated and intended for, the local police department employees involved may be charged with a federal crime.
A Maryland federal public corruption lawyer familiar with the federal courts in Maryland will likely have the experience necessary to explain how bribery, abuse of power, and misuse of public funds charges can be alleged in very different situations.
Federal Bribery Statute
A few examples of conduct prohibited by the federal bribery statute include:
- Making payments to a county officer’s re-election campaign in exchange for the awarding of county government contracts
- Offering to reward a legislator with an all-expenses paid vacation if they vote to pass legislation favorable or takes official actions on behalf of the interested individual
- Offering to secure favorable loan rates for a judge if he rules favorably in a case
- Paying money to a federal juror to help a suspect avoid a guilty verdict. If threats or force were alleged, an additional charge of extortion may be included
The federal bribery statute also makes it illegal for a public official (or federal juror) to receive bribes, “illegal gratuities,” or gifts as a result of some official act. It is important to note that the gift or gratuity does not need to result in a favorable outcome, often referred to as a “quid pro quo” return. The government is not required to prove the fraudulent scheme was successful.
Federal Public Corruption Crimes
All offenses covered under the general federal public corruption offense are outlined in 18 U.S.C. Section 201. The statute prohibits “giving, offering, or promising anything of value to a federal public official or appointee with the intent of influencing him or her to perform an official act or to commit fraud.” A Maryland federal public corruption lawyer can help explain the legal language in these federal statutes.
It is also important to note some key differences in the above-referenced crimes. For example, someone who is charged with providing an illegal gratuity may face a two-year prison sentence, while a conviction of a federal bribery charge can result in up to 15 years imprisonment and massive fines. Sometimes, because bribery is more difficult to prove, defendants may avoid a trial by pleading to the lesser charge of offering a gratuity.
Ultimately, the terms of any plea offer will depend on the facts of each individual case. However, defendants indicted for bribery or giving illegal gratuities to public officials are often also charged with the companion offenses of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, RICO, and/or tax evasion. If a person believes that they are being investigated for these federal charges in Maryland, a Maryland federal public corruption attorney with experience in white collar defense can explain how the law may apply to their fact-specific situation.
Who Qualifies as a Public Official
A public official under federal law for bribery purposes is a member of Congress or an officer, employee, or person acting for or on behalf of the United States for any department, agency, or branch of the government of the United States including the District of Columbia. Interestingly, while the District of Columbia is not a state, it does have its own criminal code. Nonetheless, when the federal law was enacted, it specifically included the District of Columbia.
Therefore, a person can be prosecuted federally for bribery with regard to an employee of a department or branch of the District of Columbia city government.
A public official is an employee or official of the federal government including the agencies, departments, or branches who act on behalf of the United States, its agencies, or the District of Columbia in any kind of official action under the authority of any department, agency, branch of the government, or a juror. A person can be federally prosecuted for trying to bribe a juror. The bribery statute includes someone who was selected to be a public official.
When a person is nominated or appointed; or they were informed that they are going to be nominated or appointed, the bribery statute encompasses that person. While the person is not in office yet, they are going to be and they are susceptible to bribery.
Bribery of Foreign Officials
As the global economy has grown so have allegations of bribery of foreign officials. US companies doing business overseas must be sure to familiarize themselves with stringent rules which make it illegal for US companies, US citizens, and certain foreign companies that issue US securities to engage in certain business practices which may be seen as perfectly legitimate or acceptable in countries outside of the US.
As stated, the penalty for any federal bribery charge can be as high as five years in prison and possible stiff monetary fines. Anyone suspected of bribery can also face civil liability for the same alleged conduct. This includes:
- Alleged bribing or attempting to bribe a member of congress
- Alleged bribing or attempting to bribe a federal judge
- Alleged bribing or attempting to bribe any government employee
- Alleged bribing or attempting to bribe former elected officials or government employees
- Alleged bribing or attempting to bribe an “officer or employee of the executive branch of the United States Government, or of any independent agency of the United States, a Federal Reserve bank director, officer, or employee, or an officer or employee of DC”
- Alleged bribing or attempting to “subsidize the salary of an officer or employee of the executive branch of the United States Government, of any independent agency of the United States, or of DC” This may be prosecuted as a gratuity violation
Contacting an Attorney
When a person has been charged or believes they are under investigation for allegations of public corruption in Maryland, they will require the services of a dedicated federal criminal defense attorney. An experienced Maryland federal public corruption attorney will be able to quickly review the facts of the case and provide any necessary guidance for addressing these allegations. If involved early enough, an attorney may be able to clear up potentially damaging charges before they are formally filed. That is why it is so important that a person speaks with appropriate legal counsel as soon as possible.