Under Investigation for Financial Crimes?

This video features David Cohen, a Criminal Law attorney based in New York.

New York City Defense Attorney David Cohen Explains Your Best Strategies

Video Transcript:

David Cohen:

If you are savvy enough to contact myself before any arrest happens, before the investigation continues and before you've spoken with law enforcement, it's likely almost certain we will mitigate any potential consequences to the business owner.

Rob Rosenthal:

So if you're being investigated for financial crimes, do you know what your rights are, do you know how to get help? Well we're gonna find out right now on this episode of Ask the Lawyer. Hi again everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers.com, my guest is New York City attorney, David Cohen. Right off the top, I wanna let you know that if you'd like to ask David questions about your situation, it's easy to do, go to AskTheLawyers.com, click on the button in the upper right hand corner that says Ask a Lawyer, and it'll walk you right through the very simple process right there. David, good to see you. Thank you for taking some time to help answer your questions today.

David Cohen:

Thank you for having me, Rob. Good to be here.

Rob Rosenthal:

So it seems like we see a lot of stories in the news about financial fraud by business owners, executives, that sort of thing. First, just tell us a little about your experience handling these types of cases representing people charged with these crimes.

David Cohen:

Sure. well, I first was a prosecutor and I prosecuted several people, probably close to 100 for financial frauds. I got an idea of what the fraud statutes were and both how to prosecute them, but also how to get around them and to work with them. As a defense attorney, I've represented people accused of financial crimes from identity staff to mortgage fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, we've helped people who have mom and pop businesses, and by those, I mean they have one shop under a million dollars gross revenue, and we've helped them get out of situations, maybe tax situations, failure to pay a payroll tax, and then we've represented lots of people with tens of millions of dollars of gross revenue in a year. Those people tend to have situations where they have either workers who they are not supposed to be working in the United States, they have situations where they are money laundering a lot of them, oftentimes they have paying people with cash payrolls trying to avoid payroll tax situations. We've spent a lot of time with what I call the alphabet soup of law enforcement with the SEC, with FINRA, United States Postal investigations, the IRS, civil and criminal investigations in the FBI.

We represent people who own businesses who believe or the government believes have run afoul of the law, and we've helped them get out of those situations, many of them without being prosecuted, and almost all of them without having to spend even one day incarcerated.

Rob Rosenthal:

So it's safe to say you've had lots of experience in these areas.

David Cohen:

Certainly have. It's one of my favorite types of clients to represent. You're dealing with clients who have already run their own business, who understand the needs and understand how to pivot when necessary, and are usually fairly good at listening to the advice of their attorneys.

Rob Rosenthal:

So I wonder, is this the kind of thing, David, that usually comes as a surprise to the person charged? It's out of the blue or is there usually some warnings and either they ignore it or they didn't notice. What is your experience there?

David Cohen:

That's a great question because the business owners have come to us under different circumstances, but almost every single one of them have told us there's been some internal warnings, and there are external warnings. The internal warnings, they sort of know they're doing stuff that they shouldn't be doing in they say, Okay, just one more time, I'll just do this for one more payroll, I'll do this for one more month, I'll do this for one more year. And then they say, You know what, I shouldn't do it. And then ultimately, they get that feeling, they continue the same path and they start getting investigated and then ultimately charged... So those are the internal things where maybe an employee got a subpoena and told them about it, told the business owner about at the business owner ignored what the employee had told them. Those are some signs that the government is looking at you and you should head those but the external warnings, they come as well, and I should say from the outset, there's almost always warnings. It is rare that all of a sudden a business owner gets an indictment and they find them the subject or a defendant in an indictment.

You oftentimes will be served with a subpoena for internal records for your banking records, maybe your bank was served with a warrant or subpoena and they need to provide information to one of the agencies that we discussed. Another very common way that these investigations are initiated is that your place of business, or oftentimes, much to my dismay, at your home, you'll have a law enforcement agent show up and they might have a subpoena for your electronic records. They might have a subpoena that they want to speak with you and they wanna bring you down. If you're a target, it's different than if you're a witness, but the agents tend to show up with a warrant and they say We are entitled to your electronic equipment, right now you're not being charged with anything, there's no arrest, there's no charges, there's no complaint, there's no indictment, we just wanna look at these records, and then I get the call if they're smart. Unfortunately, many times they don't call until then the government comes three or four months later with an arrest warrant and then they call me and say, Well, I turned all this over and I asked him, Well, what have you been doing since you turned over that information, and sometimes it's, Well I've been deleting all the files, and that's not what you wanna do, because then you open yourself up, even if you've done nothing wrong, you've opened yourself up to further charges, so the short answer is Rob, yeah, there's almost always some sort of warnings and the small business owner heeds those warnings and heeds their gut, that's how they became successful in the first place.

Rob Rosenthal:

So you kind of answered my next question. At what point in the process do they get someone like yourself involved, if you had your way, would it be when the... Before there's ever even a warrant or a subpoena, obviously after the fact, when they come and knock on the door or they show up with handcuffs, so where do they get you involved, David?

David Cohen:

The sooner the better. I have some businesses that just have us on a retainer because they're asking us questions while they're forming their business or they're not certain about it, if they're allowed to do certain things with their business, and that's the minority of cases, but really the moment that you know that you're being investigated or an employee is being investigated, and that could come in any of the ways that I've previously mentioned, a subpoena, something in the mail, a knock at the door, don't wait for the law enforcement officer to show up with an arrest warrant. Don't wait for them to come back a second time and don't listen when they say This is no big deal. If this is what I do, you run a successful business, run your business, but at the moment you're investigated, get in touch with somebody who has the experience, the know-how, the smarts, to understand the way that we can deal with the investigator, we can handle the investigation, we can right anything that may be wrong with your company, and in those instances, if you are savvy enough to contact myself before any arrest happens, before the investigation continues, and before you've spoken with law enforcement, it's likely almost certain we will mitigate any potential consequences to the business owner.

Rob Rosenthal:

David, what if somebody's thinking, the business owner is thinking, I know I'm innocent, I haven't done anything wrong, so it's okay for me to talk to a prosecutor or a federal agent or somebody like that. What's your advice there?

David Cohen:

No. Do not talk to any law enforcement agent on your own, ever. And let's look at two situations, Rob, one is, I've committed some crime, I may know that I've committed the crime, I may know it's an ongoing crime or I may not know, I may think, but I'm not sure, but in one situation, you've committed the crime and another you haven't. In the situation where you have committed the crime, anything that you say to that law enforcement official will be used against you. It will absolutely come back to haunt you in one way or the other. If you have an attorney who goes in and speaks to the law enforcement agent on your behalf, what I say to that law enforcement official is nothing that they can hold you to. Remember on the federal level lying to a law enforcement agent is a federal crime, so if you tell them, No, I paid all my employment taxes on all my employees, and it's determined that you didn't, well, not only are you in trouble for not paying those employment taxes, but you're also in trouble for lying to a federal agent, and that gets a lot of people in trouble, they try to talk their way out of it.

Rob Rosenthal:

On the other hand, if you haven't done anything wrong, why risk speaking to a law enforcement agent and saying something that will allow them to do a further round of investigation that might pique their interest in an area that they weren't already interested in. You don't want law enforcement coming in to look at your business, you don't want them looking at your books, even if you've done nothing wrong. To have my firm come in there and act as a buffer, that's what we are, we're a buffer. They can't speak to you, they can't question you, anything that they have to get or want from you, has to come through your attorney. Use that, that's why we have the right to remain silent as part of our constitutional framework, not only in the country, but in individual states, and you wanna exercise that right to remain silent by allowing a lawyer to step in on your behalf.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information, David, a fascinating conversation. Thank you for making some time answering our questions.

David Cohen:

Thank you for having me, Rob, it's always a pleasure.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guess has been New York City attorney David Cohen. I want to remind you if you'd like to ask David questions about your situation, it's easy to do. Go to AskTheLawyers.com, click the Ask a Lawyer button in the upper right-hand corner, and it'll walk you right through the process. Thanks for watching. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask the Lawyers.


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